The accused ringleader and triggerman in the May 30 double murder in Arivaca are linked to white supremacist groups, police and family members said.
Accused ringleader Shawna Forde told her family in recent months that she had begun recruiting members of the Aryan Nations and that she planned to begin robbing drug-cartel leaders, her brother Merrill Metzger said Monday in a telephone interview from Redding, Calif.
“She was talking about starting a revolution against the United States government,” he said.
The accused shooter, Jason Eugene Bush, was charged Friday in the 1997 murder of a sleeping, homeless Hispanic man in Wenatchee, Wash.
“Bush has had long-standing ties to the Aryan Nations,” Sgt. John Kruse of the Wenatchee police wrote in a statement filed in Chelan County Superior Court.
The Pima County Sheriff’s Department arrested Forde, Bush and Arivaca resident Albert Robert Gaxiola on Friday and accused them of killing Raul Flores, 29, and his daughter Brisenia, 9, during a home invasion.
Florez’s wife was injured during the attack and returned fire, wounding Bush, investigators said.
Forde, 41, who has lived primarily in Everett, Wash., was the executive director of Minutemen American Defense, and she had named Bush the “operations director” for the group’s border-watch activities along the Arizona-Mexico border.
Forde introduced Bush as “Gunny” — without naming him — in a posting at the group’s Web site. She said he had “served six tours overseas” and had received a purple heart, silver star and bronze star.
A statement attributed to Gunny said, “My personal information is being withheld for security reasons . . . I am about to have a big bull’s-eye on me and I don’t want retaliation to reach my family. My goal is to bring the full force of our collective abilities down on the bad guys. this will make waves.
Tried to cast Forde out
In recent months, Jeff Schwilk, who leads the San Diego Minutemen, tried to cast Forde out of the movement, he said.
“I’ve been concerned about her and her impact on our movement,” he said. “Irrational people with assault rifles at the border is a recipe for disaster,” he said.
Forde’s brother, Metzger, worked for the organization at its inception years ago, but he quit, he said, “when it started to get too deep.”
He and other family members grew suspicious of Forde and started talking to police about her after her husband was shot in their Everett home in December.
That’s why, Metzger said, he had an audio recorder running when she visited his Northern California home in early May.
“She sat right here on my couch and told me that she was going to start an underground militia. This militia was going to start robbing drug-cartel dealers — rob them and steal their money or drugs,” Metzger said.
Gaxiola, 42, was apparently not a member of the Minutemen group, said Lt. Michael O’Connor of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.
“We believe he was working with her for intelligence on drug activity in the Arivaca area,” O’Connor said.
Investigators think the May 30 robbery was intended to be the first in a series of such attacks intended to fund the border-watch group and a new venture, O’Connor said. Forde planned on starting a business of helping free kidnap victims in other countries, he said.
She also spoke of the venture to her brother, he said.
“She was telling me that they were going to start some sort of militia that was going to go overseas and aid and abet those who are kidnapped. She said she was going to go to Syria,” he said.
Pair of burglaries
A pair of burglaries targeting Metzger and a friend of his occurred on June 8 and may also be connected to Bush, Metzger said. Someone broke into his house and stole a safe, and a neighbor said a lookout standing on the street looked like Bush.
A friend of Metzger living in nearby Shasta Lake also was burglarized that day and said the burglar looked like Bush, Metzger said.
Bush’s alleged connection to the 1997 killing arose this year because DNA evidence was returned in January from a Washington state lab. The shirt had the victim’s blood on it, and Bush’s sweat in the armpit, said Chelan County prosecutor Gary Riesen.
The victim, Lopez Partida was wrapped in a blanket, sleeping outdoors in the early morning near a grain silo, when someone stabbed him seven times, Kruse wrote in his court statement.
Bush was cited for assault in June 1997, named as a suspect in a firebombing in July and was arrested for a felony assault on a fellow jail inmate in April 1998, Kruse wrote. Those, along with other convictions, sent Bush to prison in October 1998.
When he was released in 2003, Kruse wrote, Bush moved to the Sandpoint area of northern Idaho, a historic center of white supremacist activity. In recent days, confidential informants told Kruse that Bush said he murdered “a Mexican” in Wenatchee in 1997.
The increasingly racial component of Forde’s activities bothered Metzger, 48, he said.
“I’m not a prejudiced person,” he said.
Forde’s mother, Rena Lee Caudle, apologized for the actions her daughter is accused of in a Facebook message.
“My heart goes out to the poor woman who lost her nine yr. old daughter and I hope she gets as much help as she needs to get through it,” she wrote. “I am sorry that my child did this horrendous thing.”