The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Questions About Nativist Leader’s Story Continue

By Sonia Scherr on March 8, 2009 - 12:10 pm, Posted in Nativist Extremist

A recent story in The [Everett, Wash.] Daily Herald detailing the troubled past of border vigilante Shawna Forde has provoked yet another round of crossfire among leaders of rival Minuteman factions and other prominent nativists.

It all began when Forde, who heads Minutemen American Defense (MAD), reported several brutal attacks this winter and implied that she’d been targeted because of her anti-illegal immigration efforts. Although the incidents are still under investigation, The Herald published a revealing profile of Forde in late February that provided more fodder for both her critics and her supporters within the anti-immigration movement. The article described a difficult childhood — including a stint in foster care and allegations of physical and sexual abuse — a lengthy criminal record that began when she was 11, the loss of a baby to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and problems with mental illness. Forde also told The Herald that the perpetrators of the attacks might have been local criminals rather than Hispanic gang members.

Forde ally and Minuteman leader Jim Gilchrist wrote that he’d spoken to Forde about the article and that she thought it was “reasonably fair and balanced.”

“Despite Shawna Forde’s checkered past, here is a woman who really has been a ‘victim’ throughout her life, perhaps willingly, perhaps unwillingly,” he posted on Immigration Clearinghouse the day after The Herald article appeared. “To have come through the trials and uncertainties of adolescence and young adulthood with odds stacked against you, and to have overcome those odds, is a statement of her willingness to ultimately do the right thing.”

Then he took aim at Forde’s detractors. “Few of us do not have a skeleton in our closet, especially some of Forde’s harshist [sic] critics.”

One of those critics is William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, who alluded to The Herald article in a message posted on his website. “This e-mail is to inform you that some of our worst fears are now confirmed in the media and the damage to our movement is getting worse,” he wrote. “Despite new revelations that there are major problems with Shawna’s story, that she is refusing to fully cooperate with police, has an extensive criminal record, has made outlandish claims in the past, proclaims she has mental illness and disorders, has made false claims to the media, etc. … Jim Gilchrist is standing by Shawna Forde and her story!”

Activists have speculated that the bizarre series of attacks might be a hoax since Forde first reported them three months ago. First, she told police she was raped and assaulted at her home in the Seattle suburb of North Everett on Dec. 29 (she also posted pictures on the Internet of bruises she says she sustained during the attack), one week after a shooting there that injured her former husband (authorities have not identified the shooter). Then, while walking to a nearby friend’s house on Jan. 15, she was reportedly shot in the arm on a side street as she turned around to see if someone was following her. She told The Herald that suggestions she faked the attacks were due to “politics” and called them “so ridiculous.”

The Forde controversy is hardly the only instance of infighting within the Minuteman movement, which now consists of several factions. Minuteman co-founders Chris Simcox and Gilchrist parted ways shortly after they conducted the first border patrol operation in April 2005. They became leaders of rival Minuteman organizations, but now both are under fire from former associates who accuse them of serious financial mismanagement.


    Wow, what hate from a site that thrives on it. This group sounds like a white hate group itself. Sad.

  • Advocate

    I fully expect her to be charged in some manner with her husbands shooting.

    I got an email response from the Chief of Everett Police advising the investigation is ongoing, and that her behavior is being considered.

    But come March 21, she still intends to be on the Arizona border in her cute little armored vest hunting Mexicans and servicing her automatic weapon beer drinking buds.

    She is the poster child for gun control

  • Ryan the non-Aryan

    Say if she did get raped as claimed by her. Have she ever heard of the DNA rape kit? Did she bother to leave evidence on her body, on her clothing, in her home? If she was indeed raped, surely there should be some traces of evidence such as blood, sperm, salivia, hair fibers, skin tissues etc…

    Is that why the investigation is still ongoing? Is the evidence still being tested in the laboratory somewhere?

    I’m willing to wager it that these bizarre incidents are indeed phoney. Given the strange historic background on this woman, not to mention–“problems with mental illnesses”. Whose crime spree started at the age of “11” according to the article. This is a classic example of whodunnit.

  • The Exaggerator

    Is it any wonder, then, that those who grew up in broken-home and dysfunctional settings are all the more vulnerable to exploitation by the weird and unwholesome generally?

  • Greg

    Are you suggesting that she might be just like some of the Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, and blacks that have been caught by insurance claims fraud investigators, and police committing arson and vandalism, and then filing bogus hate-crime police reports?

    I hope you went after all those Duke University faculty who tried to send a bunch of innocent people to prison because they happened to have been born white.

    Did you?

  • Advocate

    Good Morning,

    I am the owner of that initially raised the questions about whether this was a hoax on Forde’s part or an actual crime committed against her.

    I continue to maintain there is more to this than she has reported and that she is probably using this to push her violent nativist agenda.

    She definitely does not fit the profile of a victim.

    Instead, she is using this as a “Call to Arms” for all “American Patriots”.

    I fully expect to see her arrested at some point for involvement in the shooting of her ex husband.

    And speaking of shooting. In your post, you failed to mention that when she was “shot”, it occurred as she was walking in an alley close to her home.

    How many victims of “rape” would be out at night, walking home from a bar, through an “alley”?

    Thanks for your efforts fighting the hate and misinformation. I am proud to be a participant in the effort.