Nativist Leader Charged in Double Murder

Anti-Latino Crime
Trask
Brisenia Flores, 9, and her father, Raul, were shot and killed during a home invasion.

Accused of orchestrating the murder of a 9-year-old Latina girl and her father this spring, Shawna Forde, the leader of the anti-immigrant Minuteman American Defense (MAD), doesn't even have family left to defend her. The weekend after her June arrest, Forde's mother wrote on Facebook, "I am sorry that my child did this horrendous thing." Her half-brother Merrill Metzger told the Arizona Daily Star that when Forde visited him in early May, "She sat right here on my couch and told me that she was going to start an underground militia. This militia was going to start robbing drug cartels, rob them and steal their money or drugs."

According to the Pima County (Ariz.) Sheriff's office, Forde and her accomplices — MAD Operations Director Jason Eugene "Gunny" Bush, 34, and Albert Robert Gaxiola, 42, a local MAD member — planned the May 30 home invasion because they thought they would find drugs and cash to fund their group's operation. The three allegedly broke into a trailer in the border town of Arivaca and Bush, identified as the triggerman, shot 29-year old Raul Flores, his wife and their daughter Brisenia. Flores' wife survived and returned fire. "Oh my God," she can be heard shouting on a 911 tape. "I can't believe they killed my family."

Forde
Shawna Forde

Forde, 41, denied the charges against her.

Days after the arrests, Bush was additionally charged with the 1997 stabbing murder of a Latino man in Wenatchee, Wash., behind a convenience store. Police said that Bush had "longstanding ties" to the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, and Forde's half-brother told a reporter that she was trying to recruit its members to join her in robbing alleged Latino drug-runners. "She was talking about starting a revolution against the United States government," Metzger said.

Forde had been involved in other vigilante efforts. In 2007, she told the Redding, Calif., Record Searchlight she had 50 people interested in joining a group that would scour the woods of northern California to apprehend illegal immigrants growing marijuana. That same year, Forde's run for the Everett, Wash., City Council was derailed by her arrest for shoplifting $3.18 worth of chocolate milk.

Forde's arrest immediately sent other nativist leaders running for political cover, with several claiming they had stopped working with her long before because of what they described as her erratic ways. Many had, in fact, been skeptical of Forde's earlier claims of having been raped by Latino home invaders. Police have dropped their investigation of that claim, saying they had no evidence.