Self-proclaimed New Mexico militia leader Johnny Horton Jr. sure can spin a heck of a tale.
Like how he’s in direct contact with President Donald Trump and advising the commander-in-chief on border security. Or how he’s planning to lead hundreds of armed civilians to the Mexico border to ward off caravans of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S.
Horton offers almost no evidence for his claims. But that hasn’t stopped him from capitalizing on wild-eyed fears of people online in an effort to, as he describes it, raise money for the group he runs – the United Constitutional Patriots, which is headquartered in Flora Vista, New Mexico.
Horton’s fundraising attempts were documented in November in a Hatewatch article about how caravan paranoia was sowing division among militia diehards. The article revealed that Horton’s real name is Larry Hopkins, a fact he fails to make clear in his group’s fundraising pitches on PayPal and GoFundMe. Since then, Hopkins, 69, has increased the amount of money he’s asking for to more than $12,000, having already surpassed his previous goal of $2,500.
Now, Hatewatch has obtained records that show there’s more to Hopkins’ history than just his fictitious name and elaborate claims.
In 2006, he was arrested in Klamath County, Oregon, on suspicion of impersonating a police officer and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Hopkins ended up pleading no contest to the impersonation charge and guilty to a gun possession charge. Both were felonies. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years of probation.
The details outlined in his arrest report contain some striking similarities to the kinds of grandiose stories he’s been telling in recent months.
On Nov. 5, 2006, Klamath County Sheriff’s Deputy Jack Daniel received a call from a reserve deputy, who was at a gas station just a short drive from the California state line. The reserve deputy said there was a man in the parking lot “bragging about going on drug stings in Louisiana and stating that he worked for the government,” according to the report.
In the report, the deputy described how Hopkins, who did not return calls seeking comment for this article, was dressed when he arrived.
“I observed that Larry Hopkins was wearing a black uniform style shirt and black pants,” the deputy wrote. “Hopkins had a badge similar in appearance to a police officer badge pinned above his left breast in the area a police officer would wear a badge. Hopkins had a gold star on each of his collars which is often a sign of rank. Hopkins had several military or law enforcement style pins all over his shirt in a uniform appearance.”
The reserve deputy, who’d remained at the gas station until backup arrived, said that Hopkins claimed to be working “directly under George Bush,” who was president at the time. Hopkins “also claimed to [be] doing ‘Operations’ in Afghanistan” and to be on his way “to pick up a team of agents to process a meth lab” in Northern California, the report said.
The report also said Hopkins, who was 57 at the time, had been showing off a gun to a group of teens before deputies arrived. When deputies searched Hopkins’ pickup truck, they found a piece of paper that had personal information, including the Social Security number, of an 18-year-old woman who’d been among the group.
When the deputy asked the young woman why Hopkins had her personal information, she said she believed Hopkins was going to help her get a job as a bounty hunter.
In the truck, deputies also found a Ruger pistol, a Winchester rifle and what the report described as “a stun device” disguised as a flashlight.
Hopkins told one of the deputies at the scene that he was a convicted felon and barred from possessing firearms, according to the report.
He was arrested and booked into jail.
Hopkins’ court case over the matter didn’t last long.
He was indicted Nov. 13, 2006, in Klamath County Circuit Court on three felony counts: impersonating a peace officer and two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The district court in Midland County, Michigan only had one page remaining on file from the 1986 case — a felony “register of actions” that gave few details on the arrest. Hatewatch was unable to obtain records from the 1986 conviction before publication.
About a month after the indictment in Oregon, Hopkins struck a deal with prosecutors. He agreed to plead no contest to the impersonation charge and guilty to one of the two firearms charges. The second gun charged was dropped in the deal, court records show.
“On 11/5/06 I gave the impression to others that I was a peace officer and I was in possession of a firearm having been previously convicted of a felony,” Hopkins wrote in his plea documents.
He also acknowledged that the new felony convictions would mean he was prohibited from buying, selling or otherwise possessing firearms – like the one in Michigan had.
Judge Richard Rambo sentenced Hopkins the same day. On top of jail time and probation, he was also hit with $1,500 in fines and court fees.
There was a hitch, however.
Hopkins had already served jail time before sentencing and, with those days credited to his 60-day sentence, was supposed to report to the probation office on Jan. 8, 2007.
Court documents show he checked in with the office on the day of his sentencing but never returned. A parole officer wrote in a report that the office called Hopkins on Jan. 8 and gave him two more days to show up. Jan. 10, 2007 came and went with no sign of him.
“At this time,” the parole officer wrote, “Mr. Hopkins [sic] whereabouts are unknown.”
A statewide warrant was issued the next day for his arrest.
Hopkins could have faced 20 months in prison had he been caught, court records show.
No one ever caught up with Hopkins for the violation. The warrant went unanswered for more than a decade.
Last year, while clearing out old cases, prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss the probation violation. The incident was “too old to effectively prosecute,” a deputy district attorney wrote.
The request was signed by the judge the same day – June 6, 2018.
Photo illustration by SPLC
This article has been updated to include more information about Hopkins' Michigan conviction.