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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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“Gunny,” it later emerged, was none other than Jason Bush, the gunman in the Arivaca shootings — who had served not a single day in the armed services in his life, but was skilled at sounding like he had.

The day after the murders, Forde published a post at the Minuteman Project Web site boasting of having “boots on the ground” in Arizona, citing the deaths at the Flores home as part of a fundraising pitch: “A American family was murdered 2 days ago [sic] including a 9 year old girl. Territory issue’s are now spilling over like fire on the US side and leaving Americans so afraid they will not even allow their names to be printed in any press releases.”

By June 1 — two days after the killings — police were already searching for Forde, and the word spread quickly among the Minutemen, who had received inquiries. Ken Gates, a Tucson Minuteman who had given Forde a place to stay during her Arizona jaunts, was visited by a team of detectives who searched his home for any sign of Forde. One of Gates’s Minuteman friends caught wind of the search and gave Adams a heads-up; pretty soon the word had spread. Adams contacted Forde and asked her what was going on; Forde responded that she had done nothing — rather, it was a sign that law enforcement was about to start detaining Minutemen.

Jim Gilchrist was contacted by Gates, so he phoned Forde personally to find out what was up. She dismissed it, saying Gates was a disgruntled ex-MAD member: “She was as calm as can be,” Gilchrist told reporter Scott North, the Herald reporter . A few days later, she and Bush conducted yet another home-invasion robbery in California, robbing a trucker and his wife of $12,000 stashed in their home.

Forde e-mailed Gilchrist and Eichler the morning of June 12, discussing how to include her MAD outfit in their plans to create a referral system for would-be Minutemen who might want to take part in border-watch operations. Forde wrote Eichler: “The border is going to be HOT. Good things to come my brother.”

She was arrested later that morning on the road outside Glenn Spencer’s ranch.

That day, the Minuteman Project scrubbed its site of any references to Forde and issued a statement offering its “condolences” to the Flores family. Afterward, Gilchrist was rueful. “If she hadn’t been able to use me she would have used somebody else,” Gilchrist told Scott North. “It is so unfortunate because I really thought this person, in spite of her checkered past had, in lieu of a better term, ‘found Jesus’ and really wanted to be a do-gooder.”

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The case was broken into three trials, one for each of the three people charged with the murders of Raul and Brisenia Flores: Shawna Forde, Jason Bush and Albert Gaxiola. This meant that for a six-month stretch of 2011, Gina Gonzalez had to relive the worst night of her life three more times for jurors’ consumption.

Each time, the gut-wrenching horror of the sequence of events became clearer: How there had been a loud knocking on the door sometime after midnight, waking her up, and her husband had let in two people — a short, fat woman and a tall man with black face paint — brandishing guns, claiming to be Border Patrol in search of fugitives, frightening Brisenia, who was sleeping with her puppy on the living room couch. How Junior had asked for identification, and when he pointed out that there was something wrong with their behavior, the tall man had simply pointed his gun at him and said: “Don’t take this personally, but this bullet has your name on it” and then fired. How Gina had come unglued, at which point the tall man had shot her twice — once in the chest and once in the leg, both nonfatal injuries — and she had fallen to the floor, curled up in fetal position, pretending to be dead as the tall man emptied his gun into Junior. How he had slowly reloaded his gun’s magazine, asking Brisenia where her older sister was — “She’s at my nana’s,” the girl had answered truthfully — while she asked him why he had shot her dad and her mom and whether he was going to kill her. How he had assured Brisenia no one was going to hurt her and then shot her twice in the face. How, after ransacking their home, when they had finally left her alone in the house, her first instinct was to go to her daughter.

 
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