PHOENIX -- Police have said it was a murder-suicide that claimed the lives of five people Wednesday in a Gilbert, Ariz. neighborhood. Police said Thursday morning the suspected gunman was white supremacist and Pinal County Sheriff candidate J.T. Ready.
Ready was the controversial founder of the U.S. Border Guard, a militia-style vigilante group that searched for drug smugglers and illegal immigrants in the Arizona desert.
Gilbert police spokesman Bill Balafas said Ready was among the dead in Wednesday’s shooting. He says the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is helping with the investigation.
“They located military grade munitions, and two barrels of chemicals that were later identified,” Balafas said. “So right now the Joint Terrorism Task force is trying to identify with their investigation why those items were there.”
Balafas said the incident appears to be a domestic dispute. Two women and a young girl were found inside the home. The bodies of two men were discovered outside. One person survived, and called 911.
The Southern Poverty Law Center – an organization that tracks hate groups – calls Ready an outright neo-Nazi. Ready often ignited controversy on the issue of immigration.
Ready was a Marine, often seen wearing camouflage and carrying a rifle. He spoke publicly of white supremacy.
“Enough is enough. And I got news for all the judicial branch too, who are in their fancy black dresses who want to put illegals back on the streets. We’ll yank them out of the collar too, and we’ll say, you’re done. We’re going to put patriots back in office,” Ready can be heard saying on a video that was posted on the website of the Phoenix New Times.
Ready certainly had supporters. Karen Johnson is a former state senator from Mesa – and a controversial figure in her own right while in office. Johnson said she and Ready traveled in the same East Valley political circles more than a decade ago. When Ready ran unsuccessfully for Mesa City Council, Johnson and some of her political allies supported his candidacy.
“We were conservatives and we tried our best to follow the precepts of the constitution and J.T. was right there with us,” Johnson said. “Never came up with any wild wacko ideas that would have made our eyebrows raise.”
Johnson said she fell out of touch with Ready, and that his views seemed to get more radical of late. Ready’s most recent brush with politics was in Pinal County, where he was running for sheriff in the upcoming election. And it’s located in Southern Arizona, where Ready fostered much of the resentment against him.
“There has been a convergence of collaboration between anti-immigrant groups and white supremacy groups,” said Kat Rodriguez, director of the Tucson-based immigrant-rights organization Derechos Humanos. She said Ready and his devotees epitomized this trend of armed militia groups forming along the border. She said they pose a danger to the region.
“This goes beyond, ‘I don’t like Mexicans.’ This is a level that is violent and extreme,” Rodriguez said.
Late Wednesday night the website of the U.S. Border Guard briefly memorialized Ready. The home page had a statement that the group is extremely saddened by the untimely death of its founder and the other souls lost in such as senseless act of violence.