Stephen Lemons Column

Arizona DPS Was Investigating Neo-Nazi J.T. Ready at the Time of His Killing Spree

May 2 will mark the fourth anniversary of the Gilbert murder-suicide in which East Valley neo-Nazi J.T. Ready gunned down 15-month-old Lily Mederos, Lily's mother, Amber; her grandmother, Lisa; and Amber's fiance, Jim Hiott, before turning his 9 millimeter Beretta on himself.

An FBI file on Ready and the killings sent to me last year as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request submitted shortly after the tragedy offers some insights on Ready and what the FBI knew of his activities.

One of the more interesting is that at the time of the massacre, the Arizona Department of Public Safety was investigating allegations of fraud made against Ready by one of his cohorts, National Socialist Movement member Harry Hughes.

Earlier in 2012, Ready had announced his intention to run for sheriff of Pinal County as a Democrat, a departure, as Ready previously had been a Republican precinct committeeman.

Ready also had run for public office as a GOPer and was a bosom pal of recalled state Senate President Russell Pearce, the Republican legislator behind Senate Bill 1070, Arizona's notorious nativist legislation.

Hughes had known Ready since about 2009 and had participated in many of his fellow fascist's publicity stunts, marching with Ready while wearing swastikas, and dropping in at nativist demonstrations, Occupy Phoenix, and a press conference given by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. (Note: I should point out this last bit likely was an attempt to embarrass Montgomery, who didn't want the Nazi love.)

Running as a Democrat to replace Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, who was campaigning for U.S. Congress that year, seemed to be another such stunt, as Ready and Hughes hit the campaign trail together.

Ready liked to play the clown, and Hughes took photos of the neo-Nazi, arm raised in fist salute below a Malcolm X Street sign in Coolidge.

Another photo showed Ready posing arm-in-arm with a young African-American girl dressed up like Lady Liberty, who evidently was unaware of who and what Ready was.

Ready was allowed to occupy a military-style tent on property where Hughes lived in the city of Maricopa, and Ready listed Hughes' address as his own on paperwork filed January 2012 with Pinal County.

Actually, Ready was living in Gilbert at the home of girlfriend and future victim Lisa Mederos.

But in March 2012, Hughes formally resigned from Ready's campaign, and in early April, he e-mailed the Pinal County Attorney's Office, accusing Ready of false registration under Arizona law, saying Ready had spent only a few nights in the tent on his property.

"I also am bound by honesty to bring up the fact that Mr. Ready never actually lived or maintained a permanent residence in Pinal County," wrote Hughes, adding, "I suspect that Mr. Ready has used fraud or deception to give the appearance of Pinal County residency."

The PCAO forwarded the matter to the DPS. According to documents obtained from the FBI and from the DPS, a DPS officer was assigned to the case and met with Hughes at his residence in late April, when they discussed Ready's possible fraud and some of the weapons Ready possessed.

"During the interview," writes the DPS officer, "Hughes said Ready had several items he believed were illegal to possess, [including an AR-15] rifle with a 10-inch barrel, 'simunition ammunition' containing a pull pin, and a large quantity of tear gas."

DPS documents show that this information about Ready's weaponry was passed on to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The FBI, which after the tragedy in Gilbert, obtained all information gathered by the DPS during its probe of Ready, described the "simunition ammunition" mentioned by Hughes as an "artillery simulator grenade."

A number of guns, potential chemical weapons, and explosives were discovered at the Gilbert residence where Ready lived with Mederos. Among these was a cache of 40 millimeter grenades, as well as various non-lethal items.

Why did Hughes snitch on Ready? According to the FBI files, Hughes was ticked off by an incident in which Ready had led him and a camera crew onto the Gila River Indian Community, where he and Ready ended up being cited for trespassing.

The FBI reports that, according to the DPS, Hughes "received a $300 fine," and "this incident created a tension between [Hughes] and Ready." Hughes even sold Ready's tent to get money to pay the fine.

In the neo-Nazi world, Hughes is well-known and respected. He regularly attends out-of-state NSM functions and, unlike many of his compatriots, is unafraid of publicly embracing National Socialism.

The day after the tragedy in Gilbert, Hughes wrote about Ready on his blog, "Just another day," calling Ready a "friend" and a "most misunderstood American patriot" who "risked his life to protect his country from drugs and worked hard to help other people."

In the same post, Hughes even recounted how on Easter weekend of that year, he had been stranded, his vehicle bogged down in the desert sand, when "none other than J.T. Ready" and his crew came to the rescue.

Ready and Hughes often patrolled together in the desert, you see, in operations organized through Ready's group, U.S. Border Guard.

Contacted by phone, the ever-affable Hughes copped to telling authorities that Ready was committing fraud. He said his "concern" over the residency issue caused him to resign from the campaign.

"I didn't want to be under any kind of investigation," Hughes told me. "I wasn't going to put myself in a spot, because my name was on that document, too, as being part of that campaign."

But Hughes said he didn't seem to recall discussing any of Ready's guns or other munitions with the DPS.

"I never saw anything that aroused any suspicion," he said of Ready's weapons, adding, "I don't know what all he really had. A few rifles, a couple of handguns, and that's all I really knew about."

Asked about an AR-15 with a 10-inch barrel — which under certain circumstances could be illegal to possess under federal law — Hughes said he didn't recall seeing such a weapon. Though he did remember that after the homicides, photos of Ready holding a simulated grenade launcher were made public.

Hughes said he never had a falling out with Ready, though there were times they disagreed.

"I never had a fight or an argument with J.T.," he said. "Unlike other people."

He did recall the incident at the Gila River Indian Community and admits having to sell a tent to pay the fine, but he said he didn't hold it against Ready.

Hughes even owns Ready's German shepherd, Blondie, which Hughes rescued from the pound after the Gilbert massacre. It's no coincidence that Adolf Hitler's favorite dog, also a German shepherd, had the same name, with a slightly different spelling

There are other interesting tidbits in the heavily vetted and redacted FBI document — including a bureau memo dated November 2010 discussing the opening of an investigative file on Ready "to determine if the commission of a federal crime may be imminent."

Some of the possible crimes Ready "was believed to have committed or [was] preparing to commit" include "using violence in the furtherance of his political agenda," as well as "conspiracy," "false personation," and "murder."

However, it's worth noting that the document's "precedence" is marked at its top as "routine."

DPS Summary of Its JT Ready Investigation

The file also contains a December 2011 letter to the U.S. Attorney's Office for Arizona from then-FBI Special Agent in Charge James Turgal, informing the office of Ready's group US Border Guard, which had been patrolling the desert on the hunt for "narco terrorists," though it usually just ran across weary illegal aliens, whom Ready then turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol.

Turgal invited the office to open a "criminal prosecutive case in support of our criminal investigation of Ready," but this glacial movement on the part of federal law enforcement was of little effect, considering what happened May 2, 2012.

In all, the FBI file is more than 200 pages long. It's not complete. About a year and half ago, the FBI called and gave me two options: I could wait years more for the entire file or I could take the main report, which would be done faster, relatively speaking.

I took the second option. The FBI file is too large to reproduce here, but I am posting the DPS synopsis of its state probe, which is only a couple of pages long. 

Could Ready have been an FBI plant, suckering fellow white supremacists down to the desert? We'll never know, though the report does confirm that Ready told unknown others that he was a stooge for the feds.

He told me the same thing once. But Ready was a notorious liar, and dangerously delusional as well.

Was the Gilbert massacre just a matter of an abusive boyfriend who popped off one day and killed an entire family then himself? 

The FBI would like for us to think so. More than once in the file, the FBI labels the murder-suicide a "domestic event with no nexus to terrorism." 

Perhaps that depends on how you define the word "terrorism." Given Ready's nefarious deeds and the private arsenal the SS-wannabe kept in his Gilbert garage, the phrase "no nexus to terrorism," as applied to the Gilbert tragedy, seems absurd on its face.