By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
If Jason Todd Ready had been a run-of-the-mill, delusional, Holocaust-denying racist neo-Nazi who liked to play with guns, I suppose we could could spare an ounce of surprise that, according to the Gilbert police, he killed himself and four others — including a baby girl, her mom, and her grandmother — last week.
But Ready, 39, practically had a buzzing neon sign reading "Destined to Implode" flashing on and off above his head.
Add to this Ready's pattern of intimidating and sometimes criminal behavior, his regular spouting of violent rhetoric, and his yen for running around the Arizona desert with other AR-15-toting national socialists hunting Hispanics, and you essentially had the all-American equivalent of a bomb-strapped fanatic seeking directions to the airport.
In other words, Ready was as subtle as a steel-toed boot to the skull. As horrific as the Gilbert massacre was, it could have been far worse. Authorities discovered a cache of military-issued 40-millimeter grenades at the suburban home where the slayings occurred, which is where Ready was residing.
It's not known whether Ready had a working launcher. But in a photo discovered on the Flickr page for Ready's vigilante group, U.S. Border Guard, the candidate for Pinal County sheriff, onetime Republican precinct committeeman, and former Mesa City Council hopeful points what resembles a grenade launcher at the camera.
A spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives informed me that the weapon in the photograph was a gun augmented with what appeared to be an "improvised attachment made of PVC." Still, you need only conceive of Ready, a rabid anti-Semite, heading for the nearest synagogue with explosives to have an inkling of the bloodshed that he could have wrought.
So you'll pardon me if assurances from the FBI's local special agent in charge, James Turgal, that the bureau was "investigating" Ready for "domestic terrorism" ring hollow. He told Valley news media after the Gilbert massacre that the FBI had been conducting its probe for "less than five years."
Feel relieved that the FBI and other law enforcement are looking out for our safety? Yeah, me neither. Even though they should have been: The bureau and other federal and local agencies were warned repeatedly about Ready over the years.
Moreover, Ready was a media hog whose activities rounding up illegal aliens and threatening to do battle with "narco-terrorists" in the desert were covered by news outlets as varied as Al Jazeera and MTV.
What was the FBI waiting for, an engraved invitation?
Several law enforcement officers I know — some of them high-ranking and working for the federal government — said having an "investigation" open on someone like Ready could be as simple as an FBI agent having a file on Ready on his or her desk.
I asked Turgal about that assertion. What did this investigation entail? Did the FBI tap his phones, bug his house, keep him under surveillance, infiltrate U.S. Border Guard?
"There is no such thing in the FBI as having just a file on someone's desk," Turgal said. "It was an active investigation. And we don't discuss sources or methods or any kind of technique."
There were plenty of signs that Ready already had violated the law. He had posted Internet photos of him and his Hitler-loving friends — guns in hand — standing guard over illegal aliens whom they later turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol.
Were these migrants free to stand up and leave? Were they ever questioned by federal authorities as to their treatment in Ready's custody?
For instance, one photo of two migrants posted by Ready bears the following caption: "Narco-Smugglers, who discard their arms and surrender accordingly, are treated with human dignity."
Another picture of apprehended brown people reads, "Live UDA [undocumented alien] smugglers were captured and turned over to Border Patrol."
When Ready used terms like "surrender" and "capture," wasn't he essentially admitting to the commission of a crime?
I know that when I, in the past, asked the U.S. Border Patrol about its officers cooperating with neo-Nazis, the agency was nonchalant, suggesting that Ready was like any other citizen who spotted aliens in the desert and alerted federal officers.
In addition to statutes against kidnapping, there are federal and state laws regarding the impersonation of law enforcement.
The name of Ready's band of vigilantes sounds sneakily similar to "U.S. Border Patrol." Ready and others in his crew wore gear emblazoned with "U.S. Border Guard" insignia that featured a gold sheriff's star. Ready also had official-looking cards with the same name and insignia.
Wearing camouflage and bearing high-powered weapons, Ready's irregulars easily could be mistaken by average citizens — much less undocumented immigrants who speak no English — for law enforcement or members of the military.
In fact, some of the gear Ready and his men had with them on an outing I accompanied him on bore the label "POLICE," though, admittedly, I did not witness them wearing this gear.
Ready also was seizing drugs and turning over at least some of each haul to the Border Patrol. He had been conducting these U.S. Border Guard forays openly for two years (though he had made outings in the desert for a lot longer).