You'd have to have aluminum flowing through your veins not to feel a chill crawl up the back of your neck as you listen to the 911 tape of the Arivaca killings. Weeping, Gina Marie Gonzalez tells the 911 operator that someone has shot both her husband, Raul Flores, and her 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia Flores, in the head. She asks whether she should pick up the little girl. The operator tells her no.
"Are they still there, the people that shot 'em?" asks the operator.
"They're coming back in," Gonzalez utters, her voice gasping with fear. "They're coming back in!"
There are the sounds of voices and gunshots as Gonzalez repels the invaders with a handgun. In the aftermath, Gonzalez lay bleeding of a leg wound, waiting for what seems an interminable amount of time for Pima County sheriff's deputies to arrive.
"They told us that someone had escaped jail or something," Gonzalez explained, her voice heaving from panic. "They wanted to come in and look at my house. They shot my husband, they shot my daughter, and they shot me."
As those following the story know, Shawna Forde, head of the group Minuteman American Defense, and her alleged cohorts, fellow Minuteman Jason "Gunny" Bush and Forde's reputed lover, Albert Robert Gaxiola, were taken into custody June 11 and 12 for the deadly home invasion.
In a press conference after the arrests, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik suggested the motive was financial, with Forde and her accomplices allegedly out for drugs and money to finance her M.A.D. activities. He also noted that the assailants intended to leave no witnesses.
Since Forde and her confederates were collared, she's been depicted by some mainstream media outlets as a marginal player from a marginal group in the larger nativist movement. In reality, Forde is part of a nativist tide that has coughed up a wide array of crackpot flotsam and jetsam. Rather than an aberration, she's the perfect example of how a lumpen nobody can become a somebody in Minuteman and nativist circles, just by strapping on a gun and espousing hate-filled rhetoric.
Indeed, the Southern Poverty Law Center recently noted that, at one point, Forde claimed to represent the most mainstream and powerful of nativist organizations, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR. In a 2006 debate on a Washington state TV show, the former prostitute and grunge-band promoter was identified with the label "Minuteman & Activist, FAIR." FAIR has since denied any connection to Forde, claiming it is being smeared by the Montgomery, Alabama-based SPLC, despite video of Forde's appearance on the show being available on YouTube.
Forde's also been connected to former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, who's made a career out of courting the lunatic, know-nothing fringe. The Colorado Independent, part of the non-profit Center for Independent Media, has said a representative for Tancredo's then-presidential campaign attended a 2007 rally organized, in part, by Forde and M.A.D. Though Tancredo didn't attend the rally, he sent a letter of regret, thanking attendees for their support.
Erstwhile Tancredo campaign chair Bay Buchanan, sister of far-right commentator Pat Buchanan, dismissed the Tancredo letter as a standard, boilerplate rejection and stated that Tancredo and Forde had never met, "to the best of [the congressman's] knowledge."
Forde's M.A.D. was formed after she left the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, founded by Chris Simcox, who is now a long-shot hopeful for the 2010 Arizona Republican primary nod against U.S. Senator John McCain. Simcox has admitted that Forde was part of his operation at one time, but he has called her "an unsavory character" and "pretty unbalanced."
That's a highly ironic characterization considering Simcox's past, which includes a conviction in 2004 on a federal gun charge and incessant claims of financial impropriety from MCDC defectors. Then there are the complaints of his two ex-wives, ranging from allegations that he tried to molest his 14-year-old daughter to the testimony of his second ex that, when angered, "he broke furniture, car windows, he banged his head against the wall repeatedly, and punched things."
Sort of like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, you can play the same game with Shawna Forde, though you might only need two degrees. Or none. Jim Gilchrist, one of the co-organizers, along with his now-enemy Simcox, of the 2005 Minuteman Project (which Gilchrist retains as the name of his California-based organization), has admitted giving money in the past to a member of Forde's group and to contacting Forde by phone not long after the killings in Arivaca.
Since Arivaca, Gilchrist, sometimes considered a "moderate" by Minuteman standards, has pulled from his Web site positive references to Forde and her group. However, Gilchrist was a tireless supporter of Forde before the murders, appearing with her at rallies, posting announcements from M.A.D. on his site, defending her online as "a stoic struggler who has chosen to put country, community, and a yearning for civilized society ahead of avarice and self-glorifying ego."