J.T. Ready, the infamous neo-Nazi and border vigilante who killed himself and four others last week in a suburban Phoenix home, was the subject of a federal criminal domestic terrorism investigation into activities on the border, an Arizona television station has reported.
James Turgal, the special agent in charge of the FBI office in Phoenix, told KPNX-TV that Ready had been under an investigation dating to his days as a swastika-wearing Nazi targeting ethnic groups. Turgal also confirmed that the FBI had looked at arresting Ready but was never able to develop enough evidence.
“He certainly … rode the edge of that dividing line between protected speech and criminal activity,” Turgal said.
Telephone messages seeking additional details on the case were left Monday with the FBI and the Gilbert Police Department.
Ready was notorious for his aggressive suggestions for violence on the border. He had talked about placing landmines on the U.S.-Mexico border where he and other armed vigilantes – he called them “Minutemen on steroids” – conducted patrols. He also called Adolf Hitler “a great white civil rights leader.”
It was Ready who recruited Jeffrey Harbin into the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM). Harbin pleaded guilty last year to making explosive devices to use on the border. When asked by a Phoenix television station at the time if he had known what Harbin was planning to do with the bombs, Ready said the reporter “would have to talk to the feds and see what their official statement is … but I will say that domestic terrorism is real.”
Perhaps not that surprisingly, his death has reignited scrutiny of vigilante groups operating on the border, especially in the wake of a separate shooting last month that left two migrants dead north of Tucson. The extremist anti-immigration right has also responded with renewed vigor and wildly contrived conspiracy theories seeking to answer the question: What really happened to Ready?
Veterans Today, an anti-Semitic website that bills itself as a “military veterans and foreign affairs journal,” reported yesterday that Ready was killed by a drug cartel hit squad – a theme that dominated much of the martyr-making stories being shared on the racist right. “He had become too big a threat to survive, a threat to the Mexican cartels, a threat to the Hells Angels and their control of the region’s methamphetamine business,” the report said.
Nothing police have said gives any weight to that claim. Instead, police believe that Ready was the lone shooter in last Wednesday’s mass murder-suicide that left five people dead: Ready; his girlfriend, Lisa Lynn Mederos, 47; her daughter, Amber Nieve Mederos, 23; Amber’s boyfriend, Jim Franklin Hiott; and Amber’s 15-month-old baby girl.
According to news reports, police seized four computers and military-grade munitions from Ready’s home in Gilbert, as well as two 55-gallon drums containing an unknown chemical. They also found correspondence and police and Nazi uniforms dating to the days when Ready was a proud member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM) – a group he claimed to have quit in 2010.
Turgal said the FBI would continue to investigate the U.S. Border Guard, a group Ready founded and which conducted paramilitary operations on the border. The group has vowed to continue its patrols on the border, but visitors to the group’s website now see only a black screen with the message, “The website “USBorderGuard.com” has been suspended indefinitely out of respect to the family and friends of the deceased. Thank you for understanding.”