In Interview About Giffords, Ensign Recounts 1996 Shooting At Reid’s Office

In a local TV interview that touched on the Tucson shootings, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) recounted threats that have been made to his office — specifically, one incident in which a man shot himself outside of Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) Las Vegas office in 1996.

“Sen. Reid and I actually had a stalker or whatever you want to call him,” Ensign told Fox 5. “He left very blood-curdling — almost threats — on our phones. He ended up shooting himself in front of both of our offices.”

Here’s what happened, according to contemporary news reports: In 1995, when Ensign was a congressman, a man named Michael McCusker starting calling Ensign’s office. He wanted help, he said, getting back $23,000 he lost in a Mexican land scam. When Ensign’s staff found they couldn’t help him, McCusker continued calling the office. He eventually came in and handed staffers a note that said “Justice or Death” and claimed he had a gun.They called the police, and the officer who came to escort McCusker away promised the man he’d ask Ensign to call him.

Ensign later testified that he called McCusker and spoke with him for an hour to try to calm him down. Instead, the man grew angrier and angrier.

McCusker tried Reid next. One day in 1996, McCusker went to Reid’s office and handed staffers a note that said, “I hereby declare war on Mexico.” He also mentioned having a gun, prompting staffers to call the police.

He then went outside and got into his car, which was sitting in front of the building, and shot himself in the chest.

He survived. A year later, he started calling Reid and Ensign again, leaving the aforementioned “blood-curdling” messages on their phones. In one, he said he would cause the “bloodiest day in Nevada’s history.”

McCusker was eventually charged with two counts of stalking. At the 1998 trial, both Reid and Ensign — who were both campaigning for Reid’s seat at the time — testified against him. Both said they had been scared, and Reid testified that he had moved his office to a federal building in Las Vegas for protection. Prosecutors pointed out that McCusker had a pattern of making threats, noting that he had once threatened people for not subscribing to his sports-betting newsletter.

McCusker was sentenced to two years, one of which he had already served.