According to one Gilbert neighbor, neo-Nazi baby-killer and anti-immigrant vigilante J.T. Ready boasted of hunting "two-legged varmints" just days before a massacre in which Gilbert police believe he murdered four, including a 16-month-old girl, and then committed suicide.
In a police report released Tuesday by the Gilbert Police Department, Budd Moyer, who lived next door to Ready's girlfriend-victim Lisa Mederos, states that he believed Ready was a U.S. Border Patrol "agent," a belief he expressed in a 911-callback recording released by the police earlier this month.
Moyer describes Ready stowing a shotgun and body armor in a vehicle, when he asked Ready if he was a hunter. Ready, known for his desert patrols with his paramilitary group U.S. Border Guard, told Moyer that he hunted "two-legged varmints," and that "these two-legged varmints shoot back."
Another neighbor, Tammy Cowden, also thought Ready was "a border patrol agent," according to the report. Cowden along with other are residents described seeing and/or interacting with armed, camouflaged men hanging around with Ready at the Mederos residence, where he lived.
I mention the comments above to make a point about Ready's activities in the desert, where he rounded up migrants with his fellow AR-toting extremists and turned them over to the real U.S. Border Patrol.
That is, if middle-class, English-speaking Gilbert residents assumed Ready was a border patrol agent, what do you think migrants, speaking only Spanish, thought of Ready and his camo-clad comrades?
Did they think Ready and the others were with la migra or some other law enforcement agency? Did they believe that they were under arrest by these men, who often wore gear emblazoned with the words "U.S. Border Guard" and gold sheriff's stars?
We may never know, because it doesn't seem anyone bothered to ask. As I mentioned in a recent piece lambasting federal authorities for not properly investigating Ready's desert activities, U.S. Border Patrol representatives I spoke to in the past about Ready were pretty blase about having neo-Nazis turn over illegal immigrants or drugs to them.
"We don't confirm these type of things," one BP flack told me after I asked him about photos of Ready mugging it up with actual border patrol agents online. "We do respond to citizen calls. It doesn't matter who calls."
Apparently, it didn't matter who detained illegal immigrants in the desert, as long as border patrol got them in the end.
The FBI claims it had an ongoing investigation into Ready, one that supposedly began about four years ago. But the agency has refused to explain what this "investigation" entailed and whether it ever looked into the possibility that Ready was impersonating a law enforcement officer or illegally detaining migrants.
Ready was a media whore who bragged about his desert operations, had numerous run-ins with local law enforcement, and was connected to a nationwide network of white supremacists.
In other words, Ready was practically begging for scrutiny. At the very least, his antics might have helped secure a search warrant on the Mederos home, where authorities may have found the six military-issued 40mm grenades illegally in his possession.
That's not to knock just the FBI. So far I've yet to discover any law enforcement agency, local or federal, that has explored these avenues of investigation. Though I'm still trying.
As the Vekol Valley area Ready patrolled overlaps the Maricopa County-Pinal County line, I contacted the sheriff's offices of both counties for any record of their dealings with Ready and his cohorts.
Seems neither agency investigated Ready for impersonating law enforcement or wrongfully detaining persons at gunpoint.
The PCSO had a record of Ready's U.S. Border Guard turning over a backpack of what looked to be meth in August 2011. And there was a report of a desiccated body of a woman in the desert from Ready's fellow neo-Nazi Harry Hughes in August 2010. (An autopsy determined exposure to be the cause of death.)
Other than that, the PCSO had little on file. PCSO spokesman Elias Johnson explained that Ready would call the PCSO to let the agency know when his group would be "patrolling," but the PCSO didn't keep any written record of these messages.
"We didn't have any information/reports of Ready doing anything criminal," Johnson told me. "If someone would have reported a crime committed by Ready or his group to PCSO, it would have been investigated. Ready commonly would alert federal agencies when and where his group would be."
The MCSO had one report of a body of a Hispanic male called in by Ready and his crew in June 2010. Again, the cause of death was exposure, and the body evidently had been outside for a long time, judging by the description of the corpse given by an MCSO deputy.
A Border Patrol agent was present, according to the MCSO report, to take custody of a migrant, whom Ready and his fellow vigilantes had come upon.
Ready told the deputy that the migrant had approached him and his men, asking for water, and that Ready then contacted the Border Patrol about the migrant. The deputy spoke to migrant, asking him if he had any knowledge of the dead body (he didn't).
Yet the deputy did not question the migrant about his encounter with Ready, and it's not clear whether the Border Patrol agent did so, either.
Were the migrants Ready turned over to the Border Patrol ever asked about their encounters with these vigilantes?
Did anyone care that heavily armed neo-Nazis were roaming around the desert hunting "two-legged varmints"?
Other than the warnings of a few groups and individuals, there was not much in the way of outrage over Ready's patrols. That indifference cannot be laid merely at the feet of federal or local law enforcement. The public at large bears responsibility for this lethal apathy.
There's some other interesting stuff in the report. All victims were shot in the head, including Lilly Mederos, the 16-month-old child.
One neighbor reports hearing two cars peel out after some of the shots were fired. And there are some discrepancies in the report concerning the description and placement of Ready's 9mm Beretta, believed to be the murder weapon.
Asked about these passages, Gilbert Police Department Lieutenant John Lyle indicated that Ready was the "sole suspect" in the homicides.
"We do not believe there are any other suspects involved in this crime," Lyle told me.
He added that the only other person present at the time of the killings was Brittany Mederos, the daughter of Ready's girlfriend and the sole survivor.
Concerning Ready's handgun, Lyle had this to say:
"We believe the 9mm Beretta is the only weapon used to harm the victims and that it was in the possession of JT Ready during the commission of the crimes. The recovered 9mm Beretta was found laying in proximity to both bodies, although closer to [victim Jim Hiott]."
Hiott was the fiance of fellow victim Amber Mederos, mother of Lilly and daughter of Ready's girlfriend Lisa Mederos.
Robert Karas, the father of a woman who lived near the Mederos house, told police he had spoken to Ready the night before the shootings.
"J.T. showed Robert a new bulletproof vest and ammunition," the report states. "Robert said the items were inside the garage. J.T. told Robert he needed to wear the vest to 'get used to it.' According to Robert, J.T. appeared to be 'high-strung' the prior night and was worried about 'being invaded.' Robert stated this behavior did not strike him as unusual for J.T."
That description of Ready as "high-strung" is intriguing. We'll have to await the medical examiner's report to see whether Ready was on something at the time of the murders.
Also interesting are the comments of Cassandra Olivier, who told police she had been living with Amber Mederos, Jim Hiott, and baby Lilly at an address in Mesa until one day before the massacre.
She said Ready made Amber, Jim, and Lilly move out when he moved into the house, and that Ready tried to limit their contact with Lisa Mederos.
Olivier also told Gilbert PD that she believed Ready "became upset today because . . . Amber was going to ask her mother if they could move back in the house with her."
Finally, there's the question of whether or not Ready possessed a working grenade launcher.
There was a photo of Ready on his Flickr site for U.S. Border Guard, showing Ready pointing what looks like a modified rifle with a grenade launcher at the camera. (The photos posted to the Flickr site have since been removed.) An ATF spokesman indicated to me that the "launcher" portion looked like it was made of PVC pipe.
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The police narratives mention an AR-15 rifle under the bed in the master bedroom, and one supplemental note refers to this as "an AR-15 with a grenade launcher."
I asked Gilbert's Lt. Lyle if he could confirm that description.
"I cannot confirm that statement.," he replied. "The investigation into the weapons found in the [Mederos] home is under the jurisdiction of federal agents at [the Joint Terrorism Task Force]."