The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Smaller, More Radical Border Militias Patrolling Arizona Desert

By David Neiwert on September 30, 2013 - 11:09 am, Posted in Militias, Nativist Extremist
Robert Crooks

Though more than three years have passed since the Arizona-based Minuteman organization run by movement co-founder Chris Simcox shuttered its operations, would-be vigilantes are still patrolling the Arizona desert for border crossers. They are generally operating in smaller and, some say, more radical cells.

One of these militiamen made headlines recently when he got into an armed confrontation with a Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy. This was especially noteworthy, since Sheriff Joe Arpaio – a well-known nativist figure himself – made a point of denouncing the vigilantism of the border watchers.

Last week, KPHO in Phoenix aired video of one militia in action in the desert and at a recruitment gathering. The militiamen, who insisted on anonymity and used such monikers as “Reaper” and “Raptor,” said they were only performing a public service

“We’re here to protect our community, first and foremost,” the man dubbed Reaper told the reporters. “Protect our state, second. And in doing so, that also means curbing the flow of drugs into our cities.

This militia, called the Mountain Minutemen, is being operated by a former California Minuteman named Robert Crooks, who has since moved to Arizona. As did Simcox and his colleagues, Crooks insisted to the KPHO reporters that he “wants to change the way militias are viewed” and claimed he doesn’t accept felons or racists. He also dismissed the confrontation between a militiaman from his crew and the Maricopa County sheriff’s deputy. “In reality, it was just the fog of war,” said Crooks, adding that he is trying to cut down on drug smuggling through the Vekol Valley. “I’ve been shot at 23 times in 24 months,” he said.

The man dubbed “Reaper” also described for the reporters how the group allows for military contractors – a number of whom showed up for a recruitment meeting, including some on active duty to participate without officially joining so they can get around government prohibitions against joining militias.

“So we have runarounds that will legally allow for membership without the membership,” said Reaper. “So you’ll pass your polygraph, and everyone can sleep at night.”

Crooks, who goes by “Little Dog,” has a colorful history as a border vigilante. He got his start running border watches in the Campo, Calif., area for movement co-founder Jim Gilchrist and his Minuteman Project. In 2007, he e-mailed to several nativist leaders a video that appeared to show someone shooting at two or three men attempting to cross the border. “This video shows how to keep a ‘Home Depot’ parking lot empty,” Crooks wrote. When asked by reporters, Crooks denied being the shooter in the video. A week later, a second, more disturbing video surfaced, purporting to show the actual shooting of a border crosser with a backpack. Crooks later admitted that the shooting was faked.

Today, the militias are raising concern among people who do humanitarian work along the border. Juanita Molina of the Border Action Network in Tucson described for Hatewatch a milieu in certain areas of the border where deaths have been occurring amid harassment and vandalization by border militiamen.

Molina also volunteers for the humanitarian group Humane Borders, which puts out water stations in areas of the desert where migrants are crossing and the highest incidence of deaths – most of them related to dehydration – have been occurring. The militias, she said, are making this work more difficult.

“The issues with militias out in the desert itself are significant,” Molina said. “Most recently there have been a series of deaths that have occurred in the Gila Bend area. And although humanitarian groups and law enforcement are very concerned about that area and can see that there has been an increase in deaths, unfortunately, there has been such a severe problem with the militia that humanitarian groups and law enforcement have had concerns about patrolling and even entering certain areas of the desert.”

Molina said that she and her workers encounter “everyday attitudes” among militia groups that are uniformly hostile and violent. “It’s not uncommon for us to receive threats or to have our offices, our trucks, our water stations vandalized, stabbed, shot,” she said. “We live with this violence every day.”

This activity is occurring amid a broader decline in the number of nativist extremist groups – from a high of 310 groups in 2010 to just 38 last year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The movement’s free fall has been caused by several factors, including the co-optation of the immigration issue by a number of state legislatures and a spate of criminal scandals involving movement leaders. Those include the murders of an Arivaca, Ariz., man and his 9-year-old daughter by movement leader Shawna Forde and two others in 2009; the lethal rampage of border-watch organizer and neo-Nazi J.T. Ready in 2012; and Chris Simcox’s recent arrest on charges of child molestation and the revelation of earlier accusations against him.

  • anon

    Reynardine hey just wanted to say hey i’ve seen you on Ioonwatch and just wanted to say great stuff, keep up the good work

  • Nadia

    These people have short Memory.

    How and why did their grands-parents arrive on this land that belonged to the Natives?

    They arrived on the new continent to flee misery and took over the land, killing the owners.
    The difference with the people arribving now is that they are not going to kill. The flee misery and violence.

    These gangs of killers should be dismenbered immediatly and be procecuted.

  • concernedcitizen

    These militia members don’t appear to have an understanding of the innocent people who are trying to flee the violence of their home country.

    They obviously haven’t listened to the testimonies of those who simply want a chance to live and thrive in peace.

    It’s a shame that people put their prejudice first and only see these people as strangers. And they do not see them as human beings.

    I am well aware of the drug problem coming across the border, but part of that story are the innocent people who are used and exploited by the cartels. It is those people that I would like to see protected and given a chance to get away. Imagine if any one of us were in their shoes and was simply seeking asylum.

    And for those who call themselves Christians all the while practicing hatred and bigotry I leave this Biblical Thought:

    There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.
    Exodus 12:49

  • Reynardine

    Guys, that’s all the up they’ll grow. They’re mental axolotls.

  • Aron

    My thoughts exactly, Ruslan.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Raptor, reaper? FFS, GROW UP!

  • Matthew Bright

    One would have to be crazy to imagine this collection of nativists, neo Nazis and white nationalists, in the mold of Shawna Forde and her filthy friends, aren’t out there murdering people whenever they think they can get away with it.

    Highly placed members of these militias, in leadership positions, have already demonstrated a willingness to shoot a nine year old little girl in the face. I cannot imagine for a second that these new groups are not capable of doing just as bad.