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."
The American Border Patrol's Glenn Spencer also has had a lot of 'splainin' to do since Forde's capture, which occurred not long after Forde left his ranch in Sierra Vista on June 12. In a "full disclosure" memo he published June 22 on his Web site, Spencer confesses, "Last summer, I let Forde and her daughter use [the American Border Patrol's] RV for about a week."
He describes how, on the day of her arrest, Forde showed up on his doorstep and asked to "use our family room to do some work on her laptop." Spencer allowed her to do so and says she left after about 20 minutes. Later, Spencer says, a sheriff's SWAT team arrived with a warrant and searched his home. Spencer claims they took nothing.
Interestingly, a former member of M.A.D., Chuck Stonex, has admitted to receiving a call for help from Forde the day of the killings and treating a wound on the leg of Forde's accomplice, white supremacist Jason Bush. According to Stonex, Forde told him that Bush had been shot by a smuggler. Stonex, who is from New Mexico, has stated that he was in Arizona to attend a barbecue at Spencer's ranch when he got the call from Forde.
For those in the anti-immigrant movement, Forde has turned into a tar baby that remains stuck to them no matter how hard they try to shake it loose.
William Gheen of the North Carolina-based ALI-PAC, or Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, has been ruthlessly using Forde's extensive contacts to his fellow nativists as a cudgel with which to verbally whack his enemies, who include Gilchrist and Spencer. But as the pro-immigration blog Long Island Wins has observed on numerous occasions, even Gheen once mentioned Forde as a "leader in this movement."
The truth is, Forde was one of them. And even her violence is not a one-off. You need only recall the saga of Casey Nethercott, ex-leader of the vigilante group Ranch Rescue, who after capturing two migrants in 2003 on his ranch in Hebbronville, Texas, allegedly threatened them, pistol-whipping one. Nethercott was later convicted on gun charges, and the two immigrants he apprehended ended up owning the 70-acre property after the Southern Poverty Law Center sued Nethercott on the immigrants' behalf.
Mad-dog Arizona rancher Roger Barnett has been successfully sued on more than one occasion for holding immigrants and non-immigrants captive with the help of his AR-15 rifle. Barnett's said he's detained thousands of immigrants, and some of those he's detained claim he's threatened them and cursed them with racial slurs. In one case, he was ordered to pay $98,000 in damages. In another, more than $73,000.
One need only watch documentaries such as Jeremy Levine and Landon Van Soest's Walking the Line, which followed Spencer, Nethercott, Simcox, and other border activists, to see how close in psychology they are to Forde. Or pay a visit to Dennis Gilman's YouTube site HumanLeague002 and observe his videos of various Shawna Fordes in the making. Like Forde, Phoenix nativists walk around with guns on their hips and squawk repeatedly about "invaders" from Mexico and about shooting defenseless civilians.
And people are shocked by the Arivaca killings? They should be surprised that sort of thing doesn't happen more often.
Okay, so some of you cared that a Sedona New Age physician named Reinalda de Souza claimed to have killed Michael Jackson with a voodoo curse.
And some of you were outraged that she was treating Jackson for pedophilia by using acupuncture and crystal therapy.
Some readers even were enraged that our story insulted the memory of a legendary artist, despite the fact that Wacko Jacko trashed his own rep plenty during his lifetime with his kid-lovin' antics and excesses.
But what really got the fanatics revved up full steam in New Times' satire "I Killed Jacko!" by Joseph Rossi was the account of Dr. De Souza's slitting the throat of a 4½-month-old Rottweiler named Cerberus, drinking his blood, and leaving his lifeless carcass as part of some black magic ritual.
Jesus, you people are easy.
Why, I'll bet I could have had De Souza ripping the heads off baby humans and eating their infant brains, and all you'd have been able to focus on was the pic of the puppy and the account of its untimely demise.
I know because I'm "Joseph Rossi." Well, let's say that I assumed the nom de spoof as a "tell," meant to signal that what was to follow was satire. Joe Rossi was a scalawag reporter for the fictional Los Angeles Tribune on the old TV series Lou Grant and was played by character actor Robert Walden.
Originally, I wanted the pseudonym to be Jack McGee, the tabloid reporter who pursues Dr. David Banner in The Incredible Hulk. I always loved the line that Bill Bixby delivered as Banner in the show's intro: "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
But Jack McGee probably would've been a bit too obvious. At least one commenter picked up on Rossi's name, though he was mistaken in one respect. He assumed that I modeled Reinalda de Souza's name on real-life Brazilian soccer player Reinaldo De Souza.
Actually, that's just a coincidence. I consulted lists of Brazilian first and last names and put together one I liked. I don't know anything about soccer. Much less Brazilian soccer.
So, of course, Dr. De Souza doesn't exist any more than does her Rottweiler puppy. She was played to great effect by New Times security guard Natalia Perkins in the story's photos. I actually wrote the spoof with Natalia in mind, as I've always thought she (though a nice lady) had a sorceress-like look.
But back to the puppy, which De Souza was said to have offed as part of a ceremony meant to kill Jackson because he had reneged on a promise to give her the bones of Elephant Man Joseph Merrick as a fee for her services . . . Though several commenters spotted the satirical flourishes in the piece and outed the joke online, animal lovers are apparently some of the dimmest bulbs on the planet.
Elizabeth from Scottsdale noted, "She killed a puppy, so I hope that something is done about it, because it is animal cruelty to kill a 4½-month-old puppy."
Commenter Sveeb offered, "She might not go to jail for killing MJ, but animal cruelty is still illegal in Yavapai County."
Mesa's George Watson said, "This article states that this woman, Reinalda de Souza, killed a puppy that she adopted from the pound . . . This is animal cruelty, and satire or not, this needs reported to Animal Control and investigated.
To which SundevilRick101 noted, and I couldn't have said it better myself, "To George Watson: Really? Are you a full-on moron or just a partial one?"
I've gotta wonder whether Watson was one of the people who called the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office to demand an investigation. See, I set Joe Rossi up with a local phone number so he could receive calls. And calls he did receive! Everything from an anonymous death threat and a wacky guy ranting on about "the Jews" to people screaming obscenities because Jackson was a "great entertainer" and somebody who got the humor in the piece and laughed along with it.
A few days after the spoof ran, Rossi received a call from a Sergeant Scott Potts with the animal-control unit of the YCSO. Potts left a message that his office had received complaints based on Rossi's feature, and that "there was some interest in the end of the article where she supposedly sacrificed a puppy." Potts was looking to get in touch with De Souza, you see.
A day or so passed, and another, more insistent call came, this time from an unnamed lieutenant with the YCSO, demanding that Rossi call him back because, "We're conducting an investigation that you are a witness in."
As there was no Rossi to call the YCSO back, New Times attorney Steve Suskin phoned the good deputies and informed them that the whole thing was a put-on. They seemed disappointed, but they informed our counselor that as a result of the complaints, De Souza had been placed on a list of people not allowed to adopt pets from the local animal shelter.
Sure, though it gives me great pleasure knowing I ticked off a bunch of PETA types out there, much in the same way I did with the May 2006 spoof "Xtreme Cuisine", which had fictional eccentric chef Kaz Yamamoto cooking up "tenderloin of Bichon Frisé." But I had hoped to reel in some members of the Fourth Estate, kinda like I did with the March 2007 spoof "Tohono O'odham with Love", which exposed the late Anna Nicole Smith's half-Indian love child, Marshall Soto. Or like with the October 2004 spoof "Forever Yours", which posited a creepy human-taxidermy company doing business in Phoenix.
Still, I count having sparked an official Yavapai County sheriff's investigation as a success, and it was certainly a bunch of fun to write. For the record, no animals were harmed in the making of the spoof. And De Souza, since nonexistent, had zero clients — certainly no Amar'e Stoudemire, whom De Souza was treating for his detached retina in the yarn, and certainly no Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom De Souza had supposedly advised to do sudoku puzzles and load up on the gingko biloba for his dementia.
Not that we know for certain that Joe's got dementia. But those sudoku puzzles couldn't hurt, now could they?