J.T. Ready, the neo-Nazi border vigilante who killed himself and four others in a domestic dispute in May, was twice caught forcibly detaining immigrants in the Arizona desert last year, but federal prosecutors declined to bring charges against him, according to newly released documents.
The documents were posted online today by Talking Points Memo, which obtained them under the Freedom of Information Act. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix has declined comment.
“The new documents from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection paint a picture of some of the things that caused federal agents concern,” writes Nick R. Martin on the TPM Muckraker blog. “Ready not only routinely caused headaches for the real U.S. Border Patrol but also sparked some volatile and potentially dangerous situations."
The U.S. Border Patrol referred reports of the two incidents to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix for possible prosecution. While no charges were brought, the FBI agent who heads the agency’s Phoenix office said after Ready’s death on May 2 that he had been under investigation for activities related to domestic terrorism.
In the first desert incident, on Feb. 26, 2011, Border Patrol agents responded to a call from Ready and found that “a suspected illegal alien had been flex cuffed behind his back,” the documents say. The immigrant told the agents that he and another man had become separated from a group of about 10 others. While one fled when he saw Ready and another member of Ready’s vigilante group, the U.S. Border Guard, the other man walked toward Ready “because he had no water and was tired. J.T. Ready and [redacted] told him in broken Spanish to get on the ground and he complied.”
The immigrant told authorities that even though Ready and his friend were armed, they never pointed their guns at him and that he never felt threatened or mistreated.
Nearly five months later, on July 17, 2001, Ready and about nine other members of his Border Guard – all wearing desert camouflage and armed with rifles – detained three immigrants. One of Ready’s men also had a pistol on his hip, and Ready had a dog that he claimed could detect marijuana.
The immigrants told Border Patrol agents that while they had not been handcuffed or had their hands restrained, two members of Ready’s group had “pointed their weapons at them during the initial encounter and told them to sit down,” the documents say. They also were told to empty their pockets. Ready turned over four grams of marijuana to the Border Patrol and said it came from the immigrants, a charge they denied.
Several other times, the documents show, Border Patrol agents responded to Ready’s reports that he had spotted suspected undocumented immigrants while patrolling in the desert. In one case, agents discovered “large bundles of suspected marijuana” after Ready reported two men on horseback wearing ski masks. The horses were found, but the men, apparently, were not.
In another incident, on Sept. 27, 2010, a U.S. citizen called the Border Patrol to say that he had encountered Ready while hiking in an area near Phoenix and that Ready had tried to recruit him to join the Border Guard. The man said he was reporting the incident “because JT Ready mentioned ‘killing’ and harming the illegal aliens,” the documents say. The information was given to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office.
Ready was a former leader in the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement until he traded in his Nazi uniform for desert camouflage and formed the U.S. Border Guard, a militia-like group that conducted forays into the Arizona desert hoping to find and detain immigrants illegally entering the United States. Ready said his group hunted “narco-terrorists.”
On May 2, Ready killed himself after fatally shooting his girlfriend, her 19-year-old daughter, the daughter’s boyfriend and a 15-month-old baby girl in a home Ready shared with his girlfriend in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert. The daughter’s boyfriend was a member of Ready’s Border Guard. At the time of his murderous rampage, Ready was running for sheriff in Pinal County and was under investigation by the FBI for domestic terrorism-related activities. He also was a friend of Russell Pearce, a state legislator recalled by Arizona voters after sponsoring the state’s punishing anti-immigrant law, known as S.B. 1070.