Cops, Neighbors Fire Back at Arizona's Border Vigilantes
In dust-ups with federal agents and a neighbor's garage, Arizona's anti-immigrant activists aren't engaging in vigilantism unimpeded.
Things are heating up for anti-immigrant vigilante groups near Arizona's southern border, where key figures found themselves jailed, shot and homeless this fall.
On Sept. 15, Casey Nethercott, 37, and associate Kalen Riddle, 22, were stopped by federal agents in the parking lot of a Safeway store near Douglas, Ariz. Authorities had a warrant for Nethercott's arrest based on a tense stand-off with border patrol agents two weeks prior, but the arrest did not go smoothly. Riddle was shot and critically injured while being detained, while Nethercott ended up charged with assault on a federal officer.
Nethercott, a former associate of the paramilitary anti-immigrant group Ranch Rescue, had been running an armed border militia called Arizona Guard on ranch property he owned near Douglas. He was convicted on a weapons charge in June, and also awaits retrial for allegedly pistol-whipping a Salvadoran couple in Texas in 2003 during a Ranch Rescue operation.
Nethercott had already been ordered to pay $350,000 in damages as a result of a civil suit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of the Salvadoran immigrants.
Several miles west of Douglas, another border vigilante came out on the losing end of a dispute with neighbors. American Border Patrol's Glenn Spencer, a long-time anti-immigration rabble-rouser in California, moved to the border region in August 2002, setting up operations in a columned ranch-style home in the upscale Pueblo del Sol subdivision as he built up his Web site and patrol operations in the area.
Relations with his neighbors were soured by an August 2003 incident in which a jumpy Spencer repeatedly fired a .357 rifle, hitting a neighbor's garage, after hearing what he described as "suspicious" noises in his back yard. In January 2004 Spencer pleaded guilty to a charge of endangerment, and was subsequently fined $2,500 and sentenced to a year's probation.
But it wasn't just Spencer's quick draw that irked neighbors. In Spencer's neighborhood association, the operation of a home business is prohibited. The homeowners filed a complaint, and a preliminary injunction against Spencer was granted in September.
Although Spencer maintained that most of his hate group's business was conducted from rented office space in nearby Sierra Vista, he chose not to fight the injunction and announced through his attorney that he would be leaving the property by the end of October.
Spencer says he'll relocate to 10 acres near the Mexican border, and he's been soliciting funds from supporters to put an airstrip and RV hookups on his new compound.