Bill Davis, the founder of an Arizona border vigilante group called the Cochise County Militia [motto: “Doing the job our Government refuses to do!”] has taken pride in recent years over what he says is the group’s responsible and safe surveillance of Mexicans coming illegally into the United States. “To this day, it is the most effective, safest and active of the border watch groups,” the group’s website claimed last year. “We have a perfect safety record since 2001 with nobody hurt while attending a Border Event!”
Now Davis is aiming to take a harder line at the border. On Monday, he told supporters via email that his Tombstone-based militia will be forming a PMC — a private military company, which is “completely legal!!!”
Davis said he prefers combat veterans for his venture but will consider others. There is no pay. “We can be considered paramilitary, but not vigilantes, mercenaries, etc.,” Davis wrote in the email. That’s in sharp contrast to his website’s discussion of weapons, which says that “we don’t want to appear as a para-military group in any way.”
Davis didn’t respond to a phone message or email from Hatewatch as to why he changed his mind about becoming a paramilitary group and whether doing so could increase the chances of somebody being shot. But he told Tim Steller of the Arizona Daily Star that the philosophical shift was due to frustration at calling the Border Patrol when smugglers or others were spotted, only to see them get away. His paramilitary unit will stop border crossers as needed, he said.
Aggressive tactics such as those have backfired on others. The Southern Poverty Law Center sued a border vigilante group called Ranch Rescue in 2003 after some members detained two immigrants they caught trying to enter Texas illegally, allegedly striking one of the immigrants in the back of his head with a handgun. Both were released after an hour or so. One of the Ranch Rescue members had to forfeit to the immigrants a 70-acre paramilitary training compound, complete with obstacle courses and a firing range, in order to settle a judgment against him. He also was charged with being a felon in possession of a gun and sentenced to five years in prison. The owner of the ranch on whose property the immigrants had trespassed also was a defendant in the civil suit and settled for $100,000.
Davis told the Daily Star that his group will operate legally either on private property or public lands. He didn’t say how many people have signed up for the troop, but added, “They all have confirmed kills, from Vietnam or later on.”