LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada’s governor and his wife were accosted during the weekend by two men who followed them out of a Las Vegas restaurant shouting profanities, taunts and anti-government statements in an incident posted on the internet.
In a statement released Monday by his campaign for re-election, Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, characterized the Sunday evening incident as “racist threats.” His wife is a former municipal finance specialist of Chinese heritage who was born in the Nevada town of Ely.
A separate media message posted by Sisolak’s press aide, Meghin Delaney, called the governor “deeply disappointed in how this incident unfolded, particularly with the language used to talk about First Lady Kathy Sisolak’s heritage.”
The Sisolaks, who were not accompanied at the restaurant by a state security officer, were going to meet his daughter. The incident now is being investigated by state police.
“We can disagree about the issues, but the personal attacks and threats are unwarranted, unwelcome and unbecoming behavior for Nevadans,” his message said.
Cellphone video posted to social media showed more than a minute of an encounter beginning with a man wearing a red “Cannabis and Combat” T-shirt getting up from a table, asking Sisolak for a photo, posing with his arm around Sisolak, and then calling the governor a string of epithets.
The man is identified in news reports and social media as Justin Andersch, a self-described “digital creator” who promotes far-right anti-government conspiracy theories on a blog called “Cannabis and Combat.”
A telephone number that may have been associated with Andersch was out of service Monday.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that it obtained one cellphone video Sunday of the incident. The newspaper characterized the encounter as “violent threats.”
The Las Vegas Sun reported that Andersch took credit.
Video posted to Instagram splices together scenes from two vantage points, including one from the point-of-view of the man in the red T-Shirt.
“Where’s your security at, punk, huh?” the man asks, pointing his cellphone toward Sisolak’s face. As Kathy Sisolak joins the governor heading out the door, the man trails them, declaring, “You working-for-China (expletive).”
Another man seen pushing a child away as he rises from a restaurant booth follows, calling Sisolak a traitor. The man says the governor should be hung, then turns and returns toward the restaurant.
“We should string you up by a lamp post right now,” the man in the red T-shirt says, following Sisolak and telling him, “You’re running into a patriot now.”
The video ends in the parking lot. Sisolak’s daughter, Ashley Sisolak, a lawyer and public defender, rushes to the governor and his wife near their vehicle and the man turns away.
“Because your daughter’s with you, I’m going to leave you alone now,” he said.
Ninfa Magana, manager of the Lindo Michoacan restaurant in Summerlin, west of the Las Vegas Strip, said she saw the encounter. She noted the number of families with children in the crowded restaurant at the time.
“It was something very shocking to see and witness,” Magana said. “We respect everyone’s opinion. He was with his family, and they attacked him. I felt so bad for everyone who witnessed that.”
The man who berated Sisolak left shortly afterward, Magana added.
Nevada state Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Kim Yoko Smith confirmed that state police are investigating. She declined to comment.
Las Vegas and Nevada have seen several incidents of suspected hate-crimes in recent months, and an elected official in rural Nye County declared last August without evidence that Kathy Sisolak had family members in China profiting from selling coronavirus pandemic-related items.
The claim echoed a recurrent conspiracy theory espoused by some Republicans and anti-Sisolak, anti-mask activists.
Kathy Sisolak was budget manager for Clark County and worked as a public sector financial consultant as a founder of the Las Vegas firm Hobbes, Ong & Associates before she and Steve Sisolak were married in 2018.