PHOENIX (AP) - The tagline on Shawna Forde's anti-illegal
immigration Web site says her group was "doing the job our
government won't do." They wanted to patrol the border, but her
small band of activists needed money to do it.
So, authorities say, Forde and two men dressed up as Border
Patrol agents and broke into the southern Arizona home of a man
they thought was a drug dealer, hunting for money or drugs to sell.
They found neither, but killed the man and his 9-year-old daughter.
The May 30 killings rocked an anti-illegal immigration movement
that prides itself on being vocal but not violent, and added to a
growing list of activists unafraid of using violence to advance
In recent weeks, a white supremacist was accused of killing a
black guard at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and
an ardent abortion foe allegedly shot and killed a prominent Kansas
The possibility that activists in the anti-illegal immigration
movement would use violence did not surprise Heidi Beirich,
research director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which
monitors hate groups.
"We figured for a long time that we were going to get violence
out of this movement," she said.
Her organization says the number of hate groups nationwide has
risen 54 percent since 2000, fueled by opposition to Hispanic
immigration and, more recently, by the election of the nation's
first black president and the economic downturn.
Several groups focusing on stopping illegal immigration formed
in the past half-dozen years, and many were drawn to southern
Arizona, the busiest corridor in the nation for illegal border
While the movement has been largely peaceful, it seemed a matter
of time before someone would be accused of resorting to violence.
"Some are using the movement to promote their own bigoted,
racist ideology," said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the
Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San
Bernardino. "But I want to be clear: That's not everyone in the
movement, and it poses a real problem."
He said the movement's message attracts people with ulterior
motives. Larger groups try to patrol their ranks for potentially
troublesome people but have no power to stop exiles like Forde from
starting splinter groups, and even from using the Minuteman name.
After the killings, some of the movement's leaders quickly
distanced themselves from Forde and her Minutemen American Defense
group, saying they warned for months that she was potentially
"We knew that Shawna Forde was not just an unsavory character
but pretty unbalanced as well," said Chris Simcox, the founder of
one of the original border watch groups, the Minuteman Civil
Forde, charged along with the other men with murder and other
counts, declined interview requests, but she had denied involvement
in the killings when she was led away after her arrest.
Before coming to Arizona, Forde, 41, lived in Everett, Wash.,
where she ran for the city council in 2007 promising to allow
police to check the immigration status of suspects, according to
local news accounts.
She became a lighting rod in the community of 100,000 north of
Seattle and famous in anti-illegal immigration circles when she
alleged that her ex-husband was shot and that she was raped, beaten
and shot in retaliation for her immigration activities.
The allegations caught fire and Forde drew a following among
online border security advocates. Everett police are investigating
the shooting claims but have not made any arrests, police said. An
investigation into the rape allegations was closed for insufficient
Some leaders of the anti-illegal immigration movement said her
story didn't add up and that Forde was lying.
In October, Forde showed up at a border-watch event organized by
Simcox's group, he said. She bragged about her own group and said
it would be going after drug cartels, which made Simcox worry about
the safety of other Minutemen, he said.
"You don't go pissing off the drug cartels," Simcox said.
"That was something we were not really happy about."
Simcox said the fact that his group kicked Forde out in 2007
amid allegations of lying and pretending to be a senior leader
proves that the anti-illegal immigration movement is effectively
Her group was small and unorganized, with about 14 members and
no formal meetings or activities, said Chuck Stonex, a former group
member from Alamagordo, N.M., who severed his ties to the
organization following Forde's arrest.
Forde claimed to have reconnaissance and covert mission teams
that she called "Delta One Operations" but she refused to
identify their members or activities, Stonex said.
She often talked about buying 40 acres of land for staging
border surveillance activities in southern Arizona, but she would
get angry when Stonex asked her how she planned to pay for it, he
Stonex and Forde once talked about what they would do if they
encountered a truck full of drugs in the desert, according to
Stonex. Forde said she knew a guy who would sell the drugs and give
them 60 percent of the proceeds.
"She had her own private agenda," Stonex said. "She was doing
her own thing, and she wasn't concerned about who she hurt."
Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.