I called Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada Thursday about a report I'd read on the Website of NBC affiliate KVOA Tucson concerning four border crossers fired upon by two men wearing camouflage and bearing assault rifles.
One man was injured with a gunshot wound to the left forearm, the rest were unharmed. The shooting occurred around 5 a.m. on Friday, June 11 at Peck Canyon, nearby Rio Rico. Sheriff Estrada suggested in the KVOA report that the shooters could have been U.S. citizens "hunting illegal border crossers."
What the piece didn't explain is whether the victims of the attack had been able to identify the perps as Anglo or Hispanic. But Sheriff Estrada told me that the migrants couldn't say.
"These guys scattered," Estrada stated of the group. "They didn't hang around long enough to figure out who [the suspects] were."
The border crossers began as a group of seven. After they were shot at and had dispersed, a group of four, including the wounded man, sought help, and were ultimately taken into the custody of the Border Patrol.
When interviewed, according to Estrada, they denied that they had been carrying drugs. They said the two men who shot at them never demanded anything. They just started firing.
Estrada suggested that it might have been a rip-off -- with either Mexican or American bandits involved, seeking to poach drugs.
"They wouldn't admit they were carrying drugs," said Estrada. "But there's a strong possibility that's what it was, a rip-off. If it wasn't a rip-off, and they were just shooting at them, we've got a whole different ball game here."
Estrada said that at this time he has no leads in the case. I mentioned the fact that armed neo-Nazis were patrolling Pinal County's Vekol Valley, and asked him if that was at all worrisome. He spoke generally of the various volunteer groups that seek to patrol the desert themselves.
"That is a concern," answered Estrada. "These people are obviously not trained in this sort of work -- law enforcement. They would be very vulnerable to some of these groups and individuals that really take this very seriously and can be very violent when they have to be. These people could be caught in the crossfire."
When I spoke to Mesa neo-Nazi J.T. Ready the other day about his announced "border ops" this weekend in Pinal County, I asked him if he'd been patrolling Rio Rico recently. He told me that he could "neither confirm or deny" that he had been.
He gave me the same answer when I asked him if he'd ever killed anyone in the desert back when I saw him counterprotesting the big May 29 anti-SB 1070 demonstration at the Capitol.
See, Ready and neo-Nazi Harry Hughes have already been doing "illegal immigration" patrols of Pinal County's Vekol Valley. I'm not suggesting they've been involved in any incidents such as the Rio Rico one. I suspect Ready's mysterious non-denials are meant to make him look more dangerous and menacing.
(Along these same lines, reporter Nick Martin of the Heat City blog recently posted a flier Martin says Ready was handing out at a pro-SB 1070 event calling for land mines to be deployed at the U.S. border. Ready has been floating such outrageous plans for years.)
During my interview with Ready on Wednesday, I pressed him on whether or not he was going to fire on unarmed border crossers.
"Do a poll," he responded. "What would the average American -- how would they treat an Al Qaeda member, armed with AK-47, with a backpack full of sarin nerve gas coming across our border illegally? How would they treat that person? That's exactly how we're going to treat the narco-terrorists coming across with crystal meth and other things, also armed with AK 47s. End of story."
But if they're not armed, J.T.?
"Are they bringing chemical weapons across?" he asked. "The guys bringing in poison or radiation, are they armed? How would they be treated bringing in depleted uranium to set up for a dirty bomb to blow up in Phoenix? Well it's no different with this chemical warfare?"
He continued, "What happens in the desert stays in the desert. There's a lot of unmarked graves out there waiting to get filled. So the narco-terrorists made a bad career move stepping across this border. Plenty of hungry saguaros out there."
After a while, he calmed down and offered a conciliatory note, saying that he and his fellow swastika-lickers are, "definitely willing to work with any kind of humanitarian groups that want to ensure that women and children and so forth don't get harmed." He added that, "as far as people that are unarmed that are just carrying water jugs, we'd like to see them have a safe passage out of that area."
Well, that's a relief, huh?
Ready is highly delusional, heavily armed and obviously wants attention. He also has a criminal record for assault, was twice court-martialed and kicked out of the Marines, and was involved in a weird altercation back in 2006 where he shot at an illegal alien with a handgun while the other guy shot at him with a bb gun.
In 2007, he was arrested for driving around with a fictitious license plate. He had a 9mm Beretta, white power literature, and a preemption emitter allowing him to change red lights to green in his possession.
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Can anyone say loose cannon?
On the other hand, Ready is not stupid, and he knows how to garner media exposure. Still, if he and his schutzstaffel-wannabes were to end up in some sort of conflict in the cactus, with bullets whizzing and so forth, Ready would revel in the inevitable media feeding frenzy that would result.
Indeed, Ready may have to manufacture an incident to save face. If he and his stormtroopers run around the desert and nothing happens, they'll be laughed at. But if they get into a "firefight," it'll be all over the news. Even a bogus firefight would be worth more to Ready than an event-less "border ops" in the sand.