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How the Brutal Murders of a Little Girl and Her Father Doomed the Xenophobic Minuteman Movement

The brutal killings of Junior and Brisenia Flores highlighted growing extremism on the fringes of the anti-immigrant movement.

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By forming MAD, Forde in essence threw in her lot with Gilchrist. And indeed, in the months after she and MCDC parted ways, she cultivated a friendship with the Minuteman Project leader. Forde organized a July 2007 “Illegal Immigration Summit” in Everett featuring herself and Gilchrist. Later that summer, during a visit to Glenn Spencer’s Arizona ranch, she was photographed with Gilchrist — admiring Spencer’s remote-controlled airplane, then scanning the horizon in search of border crossers. She also ran for an Everett City Council seat that year on an anti-immigration platform, vowing to allow city police check the status of suspected immigrants. She ultimately garnered 5,892 votes to incumbent Drew Nielsen’s 10,943.

Forde kept in touch with Gilchrist and subsequently arranged for him to make an appearance in February 2008 at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, about a 100-minute drive from Seattle. Gilchrist at the time was embroiled in heated lawsuits and disputes with his former board of directors over ownership of the Minuteman Project, and he no longer had any functioning presence on the borders; Forde offered to step in and take on the job. Gilchrist became so enamored of Forde that, on February 9, he directed his staff to “put Shawna in the Web site as our border patrol coordinator.”

Gilchrist flew in to Sea-Tac Airport on February 26 and was met by Forde and her driver — who happened to be Mike Carlucci.

On the drive to Ellensburg, Forde and Gilchrist had an animated conversation in which they discussed, among other things, ways that Gilchrist could provoke the students at his CWU appearance into physically attacking him, so that he could turn around and sue them. They also had a lively talk about ways they could make money — including robbing drug dealers.

“They were discussing in what I thought was a hyperbolic way, doing what she wound up doing — by taking on people who were selling drugs and taking the money from their organizations,” Carlucci says. “She was thinking about that shit in a role-playing way back then, and doing a gallows laugh… It was almost like she was bouncing it off Gilchrist and seeing how he responded.”

Gilchrist apparently was impressed with the idea. He played along and encouraged Forde’s fantasy. At no point did he ever suggest that the whole idea was completely nuts, though there was a lot of laughter. “They were talking incredibly inappropriate shit all the way back,” Carlucci says. “And I’m sitting there hearing it all.”

That April, Forde indeed arrived on the Arizona border, taking up part-time residence in an RV parked on the ranch of American Border Patrol leader Spencer, where she helped lead border-watch operations on Gilchrist’s behalf. In e-mails to other Minutemen, he referred to her as his “border ops coordinator” and “one tough lady.”

Forde kept organizing border-watch operations in conjunction with Gilchrist, who prominently publicized her work on the Minuteman Project website. The entire month of October 2008 was devoted to Forde’s “Allied Recon” project, which ostensibly was intended to bring together assorted border-watch operations under one banner, but which mostly wound up being a Shawna Forde show. A Norwegian film crew showed up and recorded Forde showing off the border country with a pistol down the front of her pants.

She also published a post at the Minuteman Project website defending Gilchrist from his many critics inside the movement: “Jim Gilchrist has been fundamental for lobbying border security in our nation, so to suggest that Jim is not involved in border operations is an absolute exaggeration of truth,” Forde wrote. “Jim Gilchrist was with me on several border operations and I have the documentation to prove it. The Project has worked closely with M.A.D. for several years now. M.A.D. has never been disappointed, mislead, or misrepresented by Jim Gilchrist

 
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