By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Wouldn't such easily observable activity have given the FBI, or some other agency, enough information to have sought a search warrant from a judge, such as the one issued after the Gilbert slayings, in which law enforcement seized illegal explosives?
If such a warrant had been served any time before May 2, the four unfortunates whom Ready apparently gunned down still would be among the living.
I conveyed this to Turgal, but he would have none of it.
"The tragedy that happened last Wednesday was because of J.T. Ready," he told me, "because of a tragic, terrible domestic-violence situation — not because of inaction of the FBI.
"The FBI was actively investigating him along with our federal, state, and local partners. To draw one conclusion to the other is inappropriate."
I responded by telling Turgal that I believed my inquiry to be entirely appropriate. And I am not the only one.
Matson Browning is a former detective with the Mesa Police Department who dogged neo-Nazi skinheads, undercover and otherwise, for many years. His success in putting murderous white-supremacist crews behind bars has been documented by this publication and others, including the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report magazine.
Browning retired in 2010 and now does consulting through his nonprofit Skinhead Intelligence Network. When he was with the Mesa PD, Ready was on his radar, and he says he fed information on possible illegal activities to various local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
I asked him what his thoughts were when he heard of the Gilbert massacre.
"It made me sick," he answered. "Not that J.T. did this. But that those four people didn't need to die."
He continued, "All of this could have been avoided. J.T. could've been sitting in jail if the proper support would have been given."
Browning says he "did more surveillance of [Ready] than I even care to imagine." During his time with the Mesa PD, he was the only Mesa cop investigating skinheads, he told me. He stated that he often was met with indifference on both local and federal levels.
One example involved a homicide investigation in which Browning already had suspects lined up to arrest.
"[My supervisor] said, 'Mat, shut up. It's just white people killing white people,'" Browning recalled.
The emphasis always was on black and Hispanic gangs, which Browning also followed. But Browning says he often encountered a disturbing attitude among fellow cops.
"When I started working the white boys, people were telling me, 'White guys don't commit crime,'" he recalled. "'When's the last time a white guy did a drive-by shooting?' [they would ask.] 'When's the last time a white guy held up a liquor store? Or sold crack on the corner?'"
One of his biggest regrets now is that he could not persuade federal or local law enforcement to commit resources to investigating Ready's suspicious activities, which, he says, date back to the early 2000s.
Ready's connections to several prominent East Valley politicians, including former state Senate President Russell Pearce, gave local cops pause, as did Ready's own political aspirations and his border-related activism.
Anti-Mexican sentiment was on the rise in Arizona and the views espoused by Ready overlapped with the views of many average citizens.
A couple of incidents involving Browning and the blowback from them are instructive as to why Ready made the cops nervous. The first was Browning's appearance in March 2007 at a panel discussion of anti-immigration extremism hosted by then-state Representative Kyrsten Sinema and led by Bill Straus, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Arizona.
ADL researcher Mark Pitcavage presented a detailed examination of the influence of white supremacists and various right-wing groups and individuals in the anti-immigrant movement.
One of his subjects was J.T. Ready, who then headed a nativist border group called Americans First.
Ready had attended neo-Nazi events, and though he had not then declared as a neo-Nazi, he maintained a profile on the white supremacist social-networking site Newsaxon.org, "an online community for whites by whites."
There, under the handle "Viking Son," Ready kept in touch with other racists and expressed his own vile anti-Semitic and anti-minority views.
This was the first time that Ready, who already was well known in the nativist movement, had been publicly exposed for his extremist associations. The following month, in two separate columns, I wrote about Ready's attendance at a meeting of the anti-immigrant group United for a Sovereign America and discussed Ready's far-right associations ("Bigot Bash," April 19, 2007, and "Ready Racist," April 26, 2007).
I hasten to add that Ready already was familiar in the Valley as an unstable, wanna-be Republican politician who had been involved in a bizarre shootout with an undocumented Mexican national, and whose past criminal history — including having been twice court-martialed while in the U.S. Marines and later booted with a bad-conduct discharge — were documented by the local news media.
Browning himself never mentioned Ready by name at the forum. But his depiction of a Minuteman movement riddled with right-wing extremists enraged the nativists in the audience.
"Our border groups call it special ops; our skinheads call it hunting," he asserted at the time about the movement's activities. "It doesn't matter what you call it — it is the same thing. It is terrorism. It is domestic terrorism. It has always been domestic terrorism. And it will always be domestic terrorism, until it's stopped."