SPLC Intelligence Report: Deadly attacks raise specter of vigilantism on Arizona border

The unsolved murders of two undocumented immigrants near Eloy, Ariz., this spring, coupled with four remarkably similar killings in the same area in 2007, have pointed to a possible vigilante campaign to murder Latino border crossers, according to the Fall 2012 issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report, released today.

The attack this April left two people dead after a group of four white men wearing camouflage opened fire on a truck carrying immigrants illegally into the United States. The shooting bore striking similarities to the unsolved slayings of four immigrants in two separate 2007 incidents. All of the killings occurred in a border region that has been crisscrossed by civilian border patrols – Minuteman-style groups that President George W. Bush once characterized as “vigilantes.”

“These attacks raise legitimate questions about border crossers being the target of a deadly campaign by nativist vigilantes,” said Mark Potok, senior fellow at the SPLC and editor of the Intelligence Report. “There are no definitive answers at this point, but people are dying and we need to know why.”

Between 2004 and 2011, an average of 223 bodies of migrants were found each year in just the Tucson sector of the border region. Though most of the deaths were the result of searing desert heat, in hundreds of cases it was difficult to discern a cause of death with certainty due to the condition of the remains.

A Department of Homeland Security document analyzing the 2007 attacks concluded, “It appears that the same group of individuals is working in concert to intentionally kill IAs [illegal aliens].”

Investigators have noted a number of similarities linking the 2007 cases and the April killings. In each case, authorities believe there were four attackers described by some witnesses as white and wearing camouflage or “military style” clothing.

“In Arizona, we might not have Hammerskins or Volksfront or the Klan,” retired Mesa, Ariz., police detective Matt Browning told the Intelligence Report. “What we do have is a lot of angry, militant white men on the border sitting like hunters waiting for these people to come across.”

Also in this issue of the Intelligence Report:

  • “Two North Carolina Detectives Build Program for Dealing with Sovereign Citizens’” examines how two Greensboro, N.C., police detectives are protecting their county against the antigovernment “sovereign citizens” movement and the avalanche of fraudulent property liens and other forms of “paper terrorism” it employs.

  • “Robert Killian's Years of Posing as a Neo-Nazi Biker Pay Off” tells the story of a police officer who spent seven years successfully infiltrating racist gangs in Florida as a neo-Nazi biker named “Doc.” In the end, it cost him his sense of security, and a great deal more.

  • “WorldNet Daily Continue to Pump Out Outrageous Propaganda” describes how WorldNetDaily – an online “news company” that has featured end-of-the-world predictions, questioned the president’s citizenship and even claimed that soybeans cause homosexuality – has become a leading source of baseless conspiracy theories.

  • “Ten Years After Founder's Death, Key Neo-Nazi Movement 'A Joke'” investigates how the National Alliance, once the most important hate group in America, has been reduced to nearly complete irrelevance in the 10 years since its founder’s death. That hasn’t stopped recent recruits from engaging in at least a dozen murders and other crimes.


Click here to read the issue online.