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Shawna FORDE





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Founder of a vigilante border group - To steal money and drugs to finance the group
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: May 30, 2009
Date of birth: December 6, 1967
Victims profile: Raul "Junior" Flores, 29, and his daughter, Brisenia, 9
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Arivaca, Pima County, Arizona, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on February 22, 2011
photo gallery

Arizona: Border Activist Sentenced to Death

The New York Times

February 22, 2011

A jury in Tucson has sentenced a border activist to death in the 2009 murder of a young girl and her father. The woman, Shawna Forde, 43, was convicted of first-degree murder and other charges in the May 2009 home invasion in Arivaca, a desert community about 10 miles north of Mexico. Raul Flores, 29, and his daughter, Brisenia, 9, were killed in the robbery. Prosecutors said Ms. Forde and accomplices considered Mr. Flores a drug smuggler and wanted to use his drug proceeds for a paramilitary organization to seal off the border to immigrants.


Murders of Raul and Brisenia Flores

On May 30, 2009, Raul "Junior" Flores, 29, and his daughter, Brisenia, 9, of Arivaca, Arizona, were murdered during a home-invasion by Shawna Forde and accomplices.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said the attackers hoped to rob the Flores-Gonzalez family. Forde and her accomplices believed that it was their duty to kill the family as they were trying to protect the U.S.-Mexican border from illegal immigrants; Raul and Brisenia Flores, who died, as well as Gina Gonzalez, who survived, were all natural-born U.S. citizens.


Gina Marie Gonzalez, 31, Junior's wife, was in the home during the attack. Gonzalez called 911 emergency services when the assailants left the home for a few moments. While Gonzalez was on the phone, the assailants reentered the home and Gonzalez fired a handgun of her husband's, wounding one of the assailants. Gonzalez identified two men, one "white," the other "Mexican," and a white woman as her attackers. Gonzales said it was the white man who had murdered her daughter and husband.

An early exchange within the 911 call is as follows:

Gonzalez: "They shot me and I pretended like I was dead. My daughter was crying. They shot her, too.

Operator: "Are they still there, the people who, that shot them?"

Gonzalez: "They're coming back in! They're coming back in!" (Gunfire.)

Another Flores daughter, 12, had been at her grandmother's home in Sahuarita, Arizona, during the attack.


Shawna Forde

Shawna Forde (born (1967-12-06) December 6, 1967 (age 44)), was convicted of this crime and sentenced to death. She was a member of the anti-illegal immigration group, Minutemen Civil Defense Corps. She later founded, and was Executive Director for, a splinter group, the Minutemen American Defense (M.A.D.), to pursue her political goals. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik alleged that Forde planned and ordered the murder of Junior Flores.

Shawna Forde and her supporters maintain her innocence, claiming racial profiling and improper investigatory work.

Forde alleged that she had been the promoter of a grunge rock band; worked as a youth counselor, aircraft factory worker, and as a cosmetologist and esthetician. Forde ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Everett, Washington City Council in 2007.

Forde had several run-ins with law enforcement prior to her arrest for the double murder. Court records show that she served time in juvenile lock-ups for repeated convictions involving theft, burglary and prostitution. Forde has married four times. In 1989, her boyfriend sought court protection from her, claiming that she had physically attacked him and threatened to hurt herself with a knife. In 2007, she was charged with theft, which Forde described as a misunderstanding. While running for the Everett City Council, her son was convicted of assaulting her employer. In January 2008, Forde accused members of a drug cartel of sexually assaulting and shooting her; however, she later suggested the alleged culprits were actually criminal associates of her son. Forde's brother alleged that she fabricated the story, and authorities closed the case due to insufficient evidence.

Since 2007, she had been involved in vigilante activities and later joined the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps. However, she was asked to leave the organization in February 2007 after members described her as being "unstable." Forde later founded a splinter group, the Minutemen American Defense (M.A.D.) organization, which had 14 members at the time of the raid on the Flores family residency.

On February 14, 2011, Shawna Forde was found guilty of all eight counts for which she was being prosecuted: two counts of first degree murder for Raul and Brisenia, one count of attempted first degree murder for Brisenia's mother, Gina Gonzalez, two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of burglary, armed robbery, and aggravated robbery. On February 22, 2011, she was sentenced to death by a Tucson jury, becoming the 3rd woman on Arizona's death row.

Gunny Bush

Jason Eugene "Gunny" Bush (born LaGrande, Oregon (1974-08-11) August 11, 1974 (age 38)), of Meadview, Arizona, is M.A.D.'s National Director of Operations. Bush was shot in the leg during the same time frame as the attack.

Bush is Forde's second in command. He has ties to the Aryan Nation and was also charged in June 2009 with the 1997 murder of Hector Lopez Partida in Wenatchee, Washington. He is also charged with the Sept. 1997 execution styled killing of his Aryan Nation associate, Jonathan Bumstead, also of Wenatchee, WA for supposedly committing the "crime" of "being a 'race-traitor'". Later in 1997, Bush was imprisoned for the theft of a car and for his possession of a firearm (unlawful because Bush was already a felon, from a previous conviction). After he was released in 2003, Bush moved to Sandpoint, Idaho, where he lived until 2007. Bush is also suspected in at least 2 additional killings during the latter part of 1997. According to information that was provided to Washington state detectives, Bush is alleged to have, on two separate instances, shown up at acquaintances residences covered in blood, and asking to be allowed to clean up there, as he had "just finished taking care of some business." Detectives are currently attempting to find any links to unresolved cases.

In April 2011, Bush was sentenced to the death penalty for the murders of Junior and Brisenia Flores, and in May 2011, received another 78 years for other crimes.

Albert Gaxiola

Albert Robert Gaxiola (born (1967-02-09) February 9, 1967 (age 45)), of Arivaca, Arizona, is believed to have provided intelligence about drug activities in the area to the M.A.D. Gaxiola had been imprisoned on marijuana charges from 1992 to 2000.

According to Gonzalez, Gaxiola and Flores had an on-going dispute that had originated in 2008 over marijuana belonging to Gaxiola that had been stored at Flores's residence. The head of the Tucson office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Anthony Coulson, told the Arizona Daily Star, "Raul Flores was a drug-trafficker." Today, the DEA declines to comment on Mr. Flores.

Albert Gaxiola was found guilty of the murders and sentenced to life without parole plus 54 years.

Alleged involvement of Minutemen American Defense

Minutemen American Defense is a militant nativist splinter group founded in the late 2000s by Forde, after she was expelled from the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps. Various Forde family members and some of Forde's associates said that Forde began to rob presumed drug dealers in 2009, in hopes of raising funds to benefit her vigilante group. Chuck Stonex, of Alamogordo, New Mexico, a former member who quit the organization after Forde's arrest, says that M.A.D. had about 14 members and that Forde termed its covert missions "Delta One Operations." Stonex said Forde intended to fund the purchase of a 40-acre (16 ha) property in southern Arizona where she had intended to establish a base for her group's border operations.


Death Sentence for Arizona Minuteman Who Killed Girl and Dad


February 22, 2011

PHOENIX, Ariz.—Shawna Forde, a leader in the Minutemen border watch movement, has been sentenced to die for the 2009 killings of a Latino father and his 9-year-old daughter in their home.

Forde, 43, was convicted last week of first-degree murder in the deaths of Raul Junior Flores and his daughter, Brisenia Flores. She was also convicted for the attempted murder of Gina Gonzalez, Brisenia’s mother.

Prosecutors argued that Forde plotted the home invasion, believing Flores was a drug dealer. She aimed to steal money to finance activities of the Minuteman American Defense (MAD), a splinter group of the Minutemen, which she founded to report undocumented immigrants to the Border Patrol.

In her testimony, Gina Gonzalez, the only witness in the case, gave a heartbreaking account of the massacre that unfolded May 30, 2009, at her home in Arivaca, Ariz.,13 miles from the Mexican border.

Gonzalez testified that her husband woke her, saying that police was at the door. Their daughter, Brisenia, lay sleeping on the couch with her puppy.

Brisenia Pleaded for Her Life

When Flores opened the door, he saw a woman standing there, accompanied by two men, later identified as Albert Robert Gaxiola and Jason Eugene Bush. They told him they were looking for fugitives. When Flores questioned them, Bush allegedly opened fire, fatally shooting him and injuring Gonzales in the leg.

Gonzalez played dead on the floor, and listened as Brisenia pleaded for her life, only to then hear the shooter reload his gun and kill the little girl. Her other daughter was spending the night at her grandmother’s.

Moments after the intruders left, Gonzalez called 911, but the woman returned with a gunman and told him to finish her off. Gonzalez, though, was able to shoot him in self-defense with a gun she had found in the house.

During the trial, defense attorneys Eric Larsen and Jill Thorpe argued that Gonzalez couldn’t positively identify Forde as the woman who invaded her home, and that prosecutors had no direct evidence to prove Forde was even there that day.

They also said there weren’t fingerprints in the home, or DNA that could tie her to the murders.

But Pima County attorneys’ Rick Unklesbay and Kelly Johnson presented evidence that Forde had attempted to recruit people to go after drug dealers. Text messages left on her phone also implicated her in the murders.

Authorities also presented the jury jewelry that belonged to Gonzalez found in Forde’s possession.

While Flores had a history of drug-related offenses, no drugs were found in the house.

Before the jury imposed the death penalty, they heard arguments from the defense to spare Forde’s life. She was presented as someone who had suffered sexual and physical abuse from one of her husbands. Thorpe argued she suffered a stroke that resulted in brain damage that impacted her judgment, leaving her open to manipulation.

Bush and Gaxiola will be tried later this spring and could also be sentenced to die if found guilty.

The Forde decision comes in the aftermath of January’s deadly public shooting in Tucson that left six people dead, including another 9-year-old girl, and injured 13 people, among them U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.


Arizona vigilante found guilty of murdering Latino man, daughter

February 15, 2011

An Arizona jury on Monday convicted anti-illegal immigration activist Shawna Forde of murder in the killing of a Latino man and his 9-year-old daughter during a 2009 vigilante raid she led on their home.

The Pima County jury convicted Forde on eight counts, including two counts of murder for the shooting deaths of Raul Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, and the attempted murder of the child's mother, Gina Gonzales, at the family's rural Arivaca home on May 30, 2009.

The child and her father were American-born U.S. citizens.

The jury also convicted Forde on two counts of aggravated assault, and one count each of burglary, armed robbery and aggravated robbery.

The jury is scheduled to return Tuesday for the penalty phase of the trial.

Forde's alleged accomplices, Albert Robert Gaxiola and Jason Eugene Bush, are scheduled to go on trial later this year.

During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Forde as the ringleader of the hit squad, and said she had planned the raid and the murders to steal weapons, money and drugs to finance a new anti-illegal immigration outfit.

The trio picked the Flores home, prosecutors said, because of a claim made by Gaxiola they would find drugs there.

While Flores had a history of drug-related offenses, none were found in the house.

Posing as border patrol and law enforcement officers, Forde, Gaxiola and Bush, whom prosecutors identified as the gunman, showed up at the Flores home after midnight, several hours after the family had returned from a shopping trip in Tucson to buy shoes for their daughter for summer camp.

Brisenia Flores was sleeping on the couch with her puppy when the killers demanded to be let into the home. They accused Flores of harboring illegal aliens and said the house was surrounded by agents.

Once inside, the gunman shot Flores in the chest and Gonzales in the leg. Later Brisenia was shot as she pleaded for her life.

Jewelry taken from the Flores home was later found in Forde's possession. Text messages discovered on her phone also implicated her in the crime.

Forde once belonged to the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps before she was removed for what former fellow members described as unstable behavior, according to news reports.

Forde then formed a splinter group, Minutemen American Defense. She led protests against illegal immigration and patrolled the Arizona-Mexico border armed with weapons.

Bush was the group's national director of operations, according to reports.


Vigilante Found Guilty of Murder in Arizona; Could Face Death Penalty

February 14, 2011

PHOENIX, Ariz.—Shawna Forde, the founder of a vigilante border group, could face the death penalty after she was found guilty on Monday of killing 9-year-old Bricenia Flores and her father Raúl Flores in 2009.  The jury will begin deliberations on Tuesday on whether or not to impose capital punishment.

Forde, the 43-year-old leader of Minutemen American Defense (MAD), a splinter faction of the Minutemen - a citizen group that patrols the U.S.-Mexico border looking for undocumented people - had pleaded not guilty to the charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and home-invasion.

Prosecutors in Pima County accused Forde of being the intellectual author behind the crime, which entailed breaking into the Flores home to steal money. Forde claims to have believed that Raul Flores was involved with drug dealing, and she had planned to use the stolen money to fund her border vigilante group.

Gina Gonzalez, the mother of 9-year-old victim Bricenia Flores and the only witness in the case, took the stand and gave a heartbreaking account of the massacre that unfolded on May 30, 2009, inside her home in Arivaca, Arizona, just 13 miles from the Mexican border.

Gonzalez said she listened as her 9-year-old daughter Bricenia pleaded for her life, only to then hear the shooter reload his gun and kill the little girl.

The Forde decision comes in the aftermath of a deadly public shooting in Tucson that shook the nation last month and left 6 dead, including another 9-year-old, and 13 more injured, among them Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The jury’s decision was an unexpected turn of events for human rights activists who believe Latinos are facing a hostile environment in Arizona, a state they say has been welcoming to extremists and border vigilante groups.

“This is the start of a positive path for our state,” said Isabel Garcia, director of Derechos Humanos, a human rights coalition in Tucson, Arizona.

While she was somewhat surprised by the verdict, Garcia hopes that the highly publicized shooting in Tucson last January, coupled with comments made by president Barak Obama during a memorial to the victims, and Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik's denunciation of what he called a "vitriolic political rhetoric" in the state, may have made an impression in the minds of Arizonans.

The decision also comes two weeks after the Ninth Circuit court upheld a previous Arizona jury decision against rancher Roger Barnett, on a lawsuit that was filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), accusing the rancher of assault on a group of migrants. The federal court found that he could not claim self-defense because none of the people he assaulted had threatened or attacked him. As a result, Barnett was fined $80,000.

Civil rights attorney Jesus Romo believes the Forde decision and the Barnett lawsuit will act as a deterrent for extreme border vigilante groups that engage in criminal behavior.

“If we link this verdict with the civil cases I think it’s going to affect the Minutemen because their impunity is chipping away," said Romo. "On the one hand, criminal justice is taking care of convicting some of them and on the other through the civil cases we are hitting their pocket book,” he added.

Carlos Galindo, a pro-immigrant activist and talk show host on Radio KAZA agrees with Romo, but is not surprised.

He believes the community in Tucson is more progressive than in Maricopa County, a place he says has become a “petri dish” of hateful acts being perpetrated against immigrants.

Just last week, a jury in Maricopa County failed to come to a unanimous decision on the killing of Juan Varela, a Mexican-American who was allegedly murdered by his neighbor, Gary Kelley.

Galindo said he was disappointed that justice was not served in a case that had been labeled by the Maricopa County attorney’s office as a hate crime. Another trial date for Varela’s murder will be schedule this week.

If the jury decides that Forde is eligible for the death penalty, her trial will begin a third phase in which the defense will present evidence to try to persuade the judge against using capital punishment. Once the jury returns the final verdict, there could be a period of 30 days before the judge issues a sentencing.

The defense is expected to present testimony on Forde’s character and could also argue that she was a victim of abuse during her childhood. Prosecutors could put her moral character into question.

“She came onto our radar because she was increasingly taking more extreme action,” said Marilyn Mayo of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Mayo says Forde formed the more extreme MAD because she wasn’t satisfied with what other Minutemen groups were doing.

Before the shooting, there were claims that Forde’s group was going directly after drug cartels. In 2008, Forde claimed that Hispanic intruders raped her in her home— the police dropped the investigation for insufficient evidence— and she suggested the attack could have been retaliation for her undercover investigations of drug-dealers in Washington, according to the ADL.

The ADL also noted that some of Forde’s ardent supporters have ties to white-supremacist groups, including Laine Lawless, who recently created the website Laine has been tied to white-supremacist organizations like the National Socialist Movement and National Vanguard.


911 tape: Victim says a woman among attackers

By Scott North and Jackson Holtz -

June 17, 2009

The harsh crack of gunfire rings out on the 911 tape.

An injured woman can be heard, begging for help and weeping for her slain husband and daughter.

"Oh my God," she said at one point. "I can't believe they killed my family."

Officials in Pima County, Ariz., on Tuesday released a tape of the 911 call made during a May 30 home-invasion robbery.

The violence has led to first-degree murder charges for anti-immigration activist Shawna Forde.

The tape is the first piece of evidence investigators have released in their case against Forde, 41, of Everett.

On the tape, which was obtained by The Green Valley News & Sun, the shooting victim describes her attackers as having been dressed in camouflage clothing.

The armed intruders forced their way into her home by claiming to be law enforcement officers looking for a fugitive.

One was a tall man with his faced painted black, the victim said. She described another as tall and "Mexican."

In their company was "a shorter, fat woman" who was white, the victim told a 911 dispatcher.

The intruders shot the victim's husband, Raul Flores, 29, and their 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia.

The woman told police dispatchers that she was shot, too, but managed to get into another room where she got a handgun.

She drove the attackers away, and they dropped one of their weapons, perhaps a shotgun, she said.

But the attackers came back, as the woman was on the phone with the emergency dispatcher.

Shouts and gunfire were captured on the tape. Then the intruders left.

While she waited for police, the woman told dispatchers that the tall man with the painted face shot her husband. Her daughter also was shot multiple times.

The woman said she heard the child crying before the fatal bullets were fired.

The victim asked the dispatcher if she could be in trouble for shooting at the intruders.

No, the dispatcher reassured her. She'd clearly acted in self defense.

"I'm really scared they're going to come back," the caller said.

Arizona officials allege the home invasion and killings were planned by Forde as part of a scheme to get drugs and money to fund her border-watch group, Minutemen American Defense.

Also charged in the case are Jason Eugene Bush, 34, and Albert Robert Gaxiola, 42. Bush is an ex-convict who has claimed to be a special forces warrior.

Police in Wenatchee on Monday said Bush has "long-standing" links to white supremacist groups. Last week, he was quietly charged with second-degree murder in the 1997 stabbing and beating death of a Hispanic man from Wenatchee. Bush allegedly has been linked by genetic evidence.

Minutemen groups on Tuesday continued to distance themselves from Forde and those who were in her organization.

In addition to the killings in Arizona, police are investigating whether members of the group also committed a home invasion in Northern California.

Everett police continue to investigate the Dec. 22 shooting of Forde's ex-husband at the home they'd earlier shared, and her Jan. 15 shooting in a north Everett alley, Everett police Sgt. Robert Goetz said.

Detectives in Everett have been working with Arizona officials since before Forde's arrest.

"We are taking the information that Arizona has to see if any of it is helpful to any of our cases," Goetz said.

So far, he said, no firm suspects have emerged in the Everett cases involving Forde.


Activist Shawna Forde charged in double slaying

Woman with troubled past in Everett now accused in Arizona

By Scott North and Jackson Holtz -

June 13, 2009

An outspoken anti-immigration activist who was at the center of a series of violent crimes in Everett earlier this year now stands accused of the home-invasion killings of an Arizona man and his 9-year-old daughter.

Shawna Forde, 41, and two associates in her Minuteman American Defense group are charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree burglary and one count of aggravated assault, according to the Pima County Sheriff's Department in Arizona.

The May 30 killings were believed to be premeditated and part of a plan to steal money and drugs to finance the Minuteman group she leads. Forde's own family said that the woman weeks ago had discussed using robberies to raise money for her cause.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik told the Green Valley News and Sun that Forde was trying right up until her arrest Friday "to get together a large amount of money to further sophisticate the type of operation she's interested in."

Forde denied the charges.

"No, I did not do it," the newspaper quoted her saying as she was led out of the sheriff's office in front of reporters Friday afternoon.

Raul Flores, 29, and his daughter, Brisenia, 9, were killed when a group of armed people, including a woman, forced their way into the home. The child's mother traded gunfire with the attackers. She survived but remains hospitalized with gunshot wounds.

Pima County officials said the intruders had been looking for the couple's other daughter to shoot her, too, but she wasn't home.

Forde was arrested without incident in Sierra Vista, a few miles from the Mexican border.

Also charged in the case are Jason Eugene Bush, 34, who was being treated for a gunshot wound he is believed to have received during the attack. He has a history of auto theft from Chelan County, in Eastern Washington. The third defendant is Albert Robert Gaxiola, 42.

Pima County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman deputy Dawn Barkman told The Herald that Forde "was the ringleader of this group and of this attack. She made the order for Bush to go in and shoot these individuals.

"She's just truly an evil person to do something like this," Barkman said.

Detectives believe there are additional suspects and are aggressively continuing their investigation, Barkman said.

The shootings occurred in the tiny hamlet of Arivaca, about 60 miles south of Tucson and 10 miles north of the Mexican border, an area of heavy illegal traffic in drugs and people.

It is in an area where Forde and her group, Minuteman American Defense, regularly operate. The group claims to conduct desert surveillance and undercover investigations aimed at curbing illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

Forde has been active in the Minuteman movement for years, although even before Friday's arrest, many groups and leaders kept their distance.

Before she headed to Arizona earlier this year to start another season of prowling the desert with her group, she made it clear that she was preparing for violence.

"I will stay the course and lead in this fight with every once (sic) of strength and conviction I have," she wrote in an e-mail message to supporters. "I will not waist (sic) it on matters that do not pertain to this very mission. It is time for Americans to lock and load."

Forde has a long and troubled history in Snohomish County, including juvenile convictions for felonies, prostitution and other street crime. Some of her past was recounted by The Herald in a profile that appeared Feb. 22.

Forde was at the center of a flurry of violence that began Dec. 22 when her ex-husband was shot in his Everett home. A week later, she reported being beaten and raped by strangers at the same house.

On Jan. 15, Forde was found in a north Everett alley with apparent gunshot wounds.

She claimed the violence was all retaliation for her activities targeting criminal groups operating on both sides of the border between Mexico and the U.S.

The cases here remain under investigation by Everett police.

Forde's ex-husband was seriously wounded during the Dec. 22 shooting. Reached Friday, he was distraught hearing that a child died. He declined to comment on his former wife.

Forde's mother, who lives in California, said she was not surprised to hear of her daughter's arrest.

Rena Caudle said Forde visited her before heading to the border this year. She talked of staging home invasions, Caudle said.

"She sat here and said that she was going to start a group where they went down and start taking things away from the Mexican mafia," Caudle said. "She was going to kick in their doors and take away the money and the drugs."

Caudle said she wasn't sure what to make of that at the time, in part because Forde has a history of exaggeration and lying.

Then, early on May 30 -- a few hours after the shootings -- Caudle said, Forde called her and reported she was taking refuge in a "safe house" in Arivaca.

Forde "was very frightened," Caudle said. "She says, 'I'm in hiding.' I said, 'What is going on?' She said. 'You won't believe what is going down here … The mafia, they are kicking down doors and they are shooting people and they are looking for me.'"

Pima County sheriff's Lt. Michael O'Connor told reporters in Arizona that Raul Flores had connections to Mexican drug cartels and his involvement was known to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

People in the Minuteman movement reacted to news of the arrests with sadness -- and some contempt for Forde.

Jim Gilchrist, president of the California-based Minuteman Project and a longtime Forde ally, said his group is separate and "we disassociate any affiliation between her, her organization and ours." On Friday he posted a message of condolence to the victims' families.

Jeff Schwilk, founder of the San Diego Minutemen and an outspoken critic of Gilchrist, said he and others long ago recognized that Forde was unstable and dangerous. He said Gilchrist should have done the same.

"The warning had been out in Arizona to stay away from this woman," he said. "Unfortunately, this conclusion was very tragic."



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