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J.T. Ready, Neo-Nazi and One-Time Pal of Russell Pearce's, is Shooter in Gilbert Massacre (w/Update)

J.T. Ready, Arizona's most prominent neo-Nazi and the one-time political protege of recalled state Senate President Russell Pearce, reportedly is dead by his own hand in what's described as a multiple murder-suicide in Gilbert that left four others slain, including a 2-year- old.

A one-time member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, Ready, 39, was a committed white supremacist, a former Republican precinct committeeman, and a failed candidate for the Mesa City Council. 

Charismatic and articulate, he was once a rising star in Arizona's burgeoning, anti-Mexican nativist movement where his inflammatory rhetoric and radical political ideas were largely embraced. 

See the full slideshow of the Gilbert massacre here.

However, his far-right extremist ties eventually became so overt that the anti-immigrant movement shunned him as an embarrassment.

Ready openly marched with neo-Nazis in the streets of Phoenix, Riverside, California, and elsewhere, sometimes in full battle gear, other times carrying a swastika flag or a portrait of Adolf Hitler, whom he called "a great white civil rights leader."

In recent years, he took to patrolling the desert in search of illegal immigrants and cartel members with groups of neo-Nazis and white supremacists whom he led. 

The most recent incarnation of these militias was U.S. Border Guard, whose patrols regularly ran across stranded or dead migrants and drug stashes in the an area of the desert on the border of Pinal and Maricopa counties called the Vekol Valley.

Despite the fringe nature of the group, the U.S. Border Patrol regularly took custody of migrants that Ready's group captured. Ready also turned over drug caches he claimed his group had stumbled upon to the agency

Ready often posted pictures of these desert forays, and his cohort, NSM member Harry Hughes, would write accounts of the outings in his blog Just another day. Videographer Dennis Gilman and I once accompanied one of Ready's patrols, which was equal parts absurd and creepy

A mini-documentary Dennis Gilman and I collaborated on, detailing the history of the Pearce-Ready connection

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Ready was his relationship with ex-Senator Pearce, who helped him join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and groomed him, according to Ready, for a possible run for the legislature.

Footage of Ready and Pearce, via Dennis Gilman

Ready said Pearce treated him as a member of his family, though Pearce was ultimately forced to renounce Ready in 2008 after numerous stories by myself exposing their relationship. 

Indeed, in 2007, I watched Pearce and Ready work an anti-immigrant crowd together at the state Capitol, during a nativist rally, later posting photos of them side-by-side and smiling. 

Ready had been outed as a white supremacist by the ADL in a hearing held at the state Legislature earlier that same year.

The fast-talking fascist was fond of media stunts to garner attention for himself or his movement. The latest was his announcement that he was running for Pinal County Sheriff as a Democrat. His campaign photos included some of himself with an African-American woman. 

There was another of him giving the black-power salute in front of a "Malcolm X Street" sign in Pinal County. One of his campaign promises was that, if elected, he would name a street after the late American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell.

He could play the clown, but always menacingly. As I reported on him many times, he would send me odd text messages, sometimes with racist epithets, other times with photos of women he said he had bedded, including more than one African-American. 

The last text I received from him read, "You smoke? 420," which he sent on April 20, a date when marijuana enthusiasts are known to light up.

As Ready was a creative, inveterate liar, it was difficult to tear fantasy from reality when speaking with him. He once told me, on background, that he was half-Jewish on his mother's side. With a straight face, I might add. Needless to say, he could be very convincing.

He always prided himself on once being a Marine, though in reality he had been drummed out of the service after getting court-martialed twice. He was intelligent and wily, and I was always on my guard around him.

I'm not entirely surprised that his life ended this way, considering his love of firearms and his twisted political ideology. Many have wondered if he was involved in the recent shootings of two illegal immigrants in Eloy. But that, of course, is highly speculative.

My sympathies to the families of the victims. I'll update this post as I get more.

UPDATE 7:04 p.m.: Just got this info from my colleague Eric Tsetsi, who has been on the scene and heard the latest briefing from the Gilbert cops. 

Of the five dead, four of the bodies are still in the Gilbert home where the murders apparently took place. A toddler was removed and transported to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Police say they are not moving the four remaining bodies because there is an unknown substance in containers outside the home that they are investigating. 

Police also say that the shooter was one of the four in the home. They have not confirmed that Ready was the shooter, although other media outlets also are reporting that he was, and my sources say this as well.

Fox News reports:

"In what may be a quadruple murder-suicide, J.T. Ready presumably shot and killed his girlfriend, 47-year-old Lisa Mederos, Lisa's daughter 22-year-old Amber Mederos, Amber's 22-year-old boyfriend, Jim Hoitt, and Amber's 2-year-old daughter, Lilly, according to a law enforcement source. This information has not officially been released by Gilbert Police."

Tsetsi also told me that the Gilbert cops acknowledged that the FBI is involved in the investigation, though the agency would not normally be.

This is curious as there was much speculation by myself and others that Ready was an FBI informant, though, of course, Ready denied this, and the FBI would neither confirm nor deny.

UPDATE 5/3/12: Please also see my colleague Matt Hendley's update from this morning, where Gilbert police confirm Ready's death, and admit they believe he is the shooter.

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