No boundaries: Shawna Forde and the Minutemen movement
Photo by Andrew Ong
Shawna Forde scans for signs of illegal immigrants near the Mexican border in October 2008.
Shawna Forde looks through an abandoned mobile home looking for signs of illegal immigrants near Three Points, Arizona in October 2008. (Photo by Andrew Ong)
Shawna Forde’s Minutemen American Defense logo tattoo on her back. (Photo by Andrew Ong)
Dan Bates / The Herald
Shawna Forde responds during Herald interview on Feb. 5.
Daniel Newhauser / Green Valley News and Sun
Shawna Forde leaves the sheriff’s office in Arivaca, Ariz., following her arrest on June 12.
Daniel Newhauser / Green Valley News and Sun
Shawna Forde briefly speaks to reporters as she leaves the sheriff’s office in Arivaca, Ariz., following her arrest on June 12.
Jason Eugene Bush, 35, Shawna Forde, 41, and Albert Robert Gaxiola, 42, were all taken into custody and charged in connection with the murders of 29-year-old Raul Flores and 9-year-old Brisenia Flores. Both were killed during an alleged home invasion.
It doesn't matter if they are national leaders or "boots on the ground" activists, private detectives or political strategists, they all say Forde, 41, comes on strong, makes big promises and in time tries to twist their relationships to promote herself.
The Everett woman showed up on the Minuteman scene in 2006 with boundless energy, expressing heartfelt love for the United States.
The Minutemen were looking for people like her. She spent hours spreading the word, talking about border security and illegal immigration. She showed others how to make their voices heard at rallies, in city council meetings and on television.
By this June, after she was arrested on double murder charges in Arizona, those in Forde's circle described somebody who seemed part action figure, part petty criminal.
There was Forde the self-described patriot who claimed to be the leader of a national Minutemen organization, who signed off her e-mails with a crisp, military "10-4" or "Copy out." She dressed in high heels and camouflage, accessorizing with a .380-caliber handgun tucked into her waistband.
There also was Forde the teller of tall tales, the abuser of trust, the trickster who, several acquaintances suggest, couldn't be trusted around loose cash, prescription pain pills or another's reputation.
Forde now awaits trial in the killings of Raul Flores, 29, and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia. She's accused of leading a May 30 raid on their Arivaca, Ariz., home because she suspected Flores was a drug smuggler. Police say she planned to use any drugs and money she found to bankroll her Minutemen American Defense group. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty. The case isn't likely to go before jurors until 2011.
Minutemen around the country have raced to distance themselves from Forde.
She really wasn't one of them, they contend. Her agenda was preying on others, not protecting the country.
Without doubt, Forde's is a crime story and a close look at her trail turns up interlocking lies. Separating Forde from her work with the Minutemen movement, though, denies much of what happened.
Multiple interviews and dozens of e-mails sent by Forde over the years detail how she inserted herself into a loose-knit, fractious network that needed volunteers enough to set aside skepticism. Some found their faith and friendship abused. Many seemed willing to overlook what today seem like clear warning signs. Those include wild tales Forde told last winter in Everett, when she suggested that gang members from Central America had nearly shot her ex-husband to death and in separate attacks raped her and put a bullet through her arm in retaliation for her Minutemen activism.
Forde used to joke that she one day would be martyred and that that would galvanize people to take action, said Bob Dameron of Yakima, who is among those in the Minutemen movement who has known Forde the longest.
"I think she wanted to be famous," he said. "I think she made it to infamous."
God placed a challenge before Bob Dameron. So did Shawna Forde.
In the middle of summer 2007, with little besides a pup tent and the goodwill of strangers, the Minuteman from Washington found himself for five weeks in the Sonora Desert, guarding the Arizona side of the border.
This exercise of his patriotism tested his faith.
"That was the most humbling experience of my life," he said. "I learned to trust God."
The Yakima man and his wife, Kathy, joined Minutemen Civil Defense Corps because of their beliefs. They are devout Christians. They are open about their love for family and the United States. They worry that porous borders invite criminals and erode U.S. sovereignty.
They met Forde in 2006 during a border watch operation along the U.S.-Canada boundary not far from Bellingham. Dozens of people gathered at the home of the state's Minutemen leader, to get to know each other and to join in a common cause.
During a dinner visit, Forde was caught alone in a bedroom, rummaging through a dresser, the Damerons said. Her explanation didn't wash and she was banned from the house -- not from the Minutemen. Every ally mattered, and her defenders believed she could contribute.
In the months that followed, the Damerons saw a lot of their Everett counterpart.
"She was adamant about the country, patriotism," Bob Dameron said. "She was constantly going all over the state getting things done."
While the Damerons were leading Minutemen efforts in the Yakima Valley, they welcomed Forde's statewide involvement. She spent days helping organize rallies, protests outside day-labor sites and presentations at city council meetings.
They were convinced Forde cared about the cause, and, in time, about them. They eventually invited Forde to stay at their home.
"She called us 'Mom and Dad,'" Kathy Dameron said, "and that was probably to get what she wanted."
They got to know about Forde's family and learned that her marriage was ending. They met her teenage daughter, a sweetheart who seemed to like staying with them. The girl called Kathy Dameron "Grandma."
Forde's conduct raised questions from the start, said Hal Washburn, vetting officer for the state's Minuteman Civil Defense Corps chapter.
Forde often used The Line, a Minutemen e-mail list, to share stories that were hard to believe.
For example, in a lengthy Aug. 20, 2006, e-mail she described being attacked by a group of men -- she said they were Mexicans -- outside a Seattle Starbucks. The men were enraged after seeing signs against immigration piled inside her car.
Forde wrote about finding herself "face to face with a pair of dark brown eyes ... filled with pure hate."
One man, she wrote, wanted "to rape me or kill me probably both." Just before the confrontation got physical, though, Forde said she was saved by a group of U.S. Army soldiers, in full uniform, who happened to be in the area.
She acted as the group's spokeswoman but often fought with other Minutemen who were not as impressed as the Damerons with her efforts. She also claimed to have more authority in the Washington organization than she actually had. Some leaders wanted her out.
Bob Dameron was instructed to fire her on Nov. 14, 2006, after she was done with a Yakima public television station's town hall forum about illegal immigration.
Dameron broke the news before Forde left the next morning to return to Everett. "I told her I was told to fire her," he said. "I also told her I couldn't do it."
As she drove out of the Yakima Valley, Forde's Honda Civic slammed into a guardrail. She was taken to the hospital, shaken but not seriously hurt. The car was totaled.
Forde told the Damerons she was run off the road by truck drivers -- she claimed they were Mexicans.
The Washington State Patrol's report on the incident notes Forde said she crashed after a truck pulled in front of her. Troopers determined the trucks were driving 55 mph and Forde lost control. The report contains no information about the truckers.
The accident temporarily halted the effort to fire Forde.
Then in December she sent out an e-mail to raise money for an ailing Minuteman. She didn't name him, but said he was too sick to work and too proud to ask for help. Forde asked people to send her cash or checks, made out in her name.
Fundraising is supposed to go through the group's chain of command, Washburn said, and Forde had crossed the line again.
Meanwhile, she secretly approached Chris Simcox, who at the time was the group's national director and now is a candidate in Arizona for U.S. Senate.
Minutemen leadership in Washington was ineffective and listless, Forde told him in January 2007 e-mails. She had a plan to restructure the organization.
A few days later Simcox sent out an e-mail saying he was promoting Forde to a statewide leadership post. It was to a job she urged him to create.
Leaders among Washington's Minutemen threatened to quit and bombarded Simcox with angry messages.
"I feel that somewhere this has just gone wrong," Forde wrote Washburn and others. "You ... think I just want to be in charge. In fact I don't want to be in charge! I'm terrified for our future and the country that my children will be forced to live in. All I ever wanted to do is get out there and 'DO.' "
They voted her out of the group the next month.
She started her own group, Minutemen American Defense, or MAD.
"She had maybe 15 or 20 members, but it gave her a lot of credibility," Washburn said.
A Web site was cobbled together, at her request, by Bob Dameron, who still felt Forde meant well and had promise.
Forde wanted to use the Web site to promote herself. She wanted it to feature photographs and video of her in the desert, mixed with accounts of undercover investigations she claimed to be conducting involving drug cartels, human smugglers and prostitution rings.
That summer, Forde persuaded Bob Dameron to join her in Arizona at a gathering of Minutemen who planned a vigil on the Mexican border.
The plan was for Dameron to act as the cameraman for Forde, creating a documentary film "by Minutemen about Minutemen."
They drove down together. Forde led him to a desert camp and drove away. He spent five weeks living in a small tent, joining Minutemen on desert patrols and relying on the kindness of strangers for rides into town to buy food.
That was the last time he did anything on the border, or put his faith in Forde.
But Kathy Dameron's relationship continued, mostly out of love for Forde and her teenage daughter.
A disturbing pattern soon developed, of Forde telephoning just when, she claimed, her life was in danger. The calls often would cut off in the middle, leaving Kathy Dameron sick with worry.
In November 2008, Forde e-mailed photographs of drugs and cash she said she found at an Arizona stash house. That's one reason why the Damerons didn't immediately doubt Forde when she said her family had been targeted by the drug cartels.
Forde's ex-husband was shot by an intruder at his Everett home on Dec. 22, 2008, in a case that remains unsolved. A week later, Forde claimed she was raped by a Latino gang. Police dropped that case for lack of evidence.
Then, on Jan. 15, Kathy Dameron was on the phone with Forde when the Everett woman said she had been shot while walking in an alleyway. Dameron heard no gunfire and she now believes Forde staged the attack.
Their friendship soon ended. Kathy Dameron's prescription pain medication seemed to disappear whenever Forde was visiting. It happened again in March. She found her pills in Forde's purse and confronted her.
"She said, 'I've been busted, haven't I?' " Kathy Dameron recalled. "I said, 'Yes, you have.' She said. 'I'm sorry, Mom.' I said, 'Not good enough.'"
Doug Parris is director of The Reagan Wing, an Edmonds-based political action group that promotes principles of limited government and unapologetic support for moral convictions.
It was a successful formula that resonated with voters under the leadership of President Ronald Reagan.
Parris always is trying to help Republicans reconnect with blue-collar voters. He agreed with strategists who believed border security could galvanize people who weren't inclined to wait for government to fix their problems.
Who could argue against enforcement of laws to thwart drug traffickers, human smugglers and people seeking to enter the country illegally?
Shawna Forde presented herself as uniquely qualified to help, Parris said. And she had support from some Republican leaders in Snohomish County.
Forde knew Minutemen. She was the leader of Minutemen American Defense and owned a company specializing in "Take Back America" T-shirts.
Enter Jim Gilchrist. The founder of the California-based Minuteman Project was willing to speak and wanted to recruit Washington allies for his brand of border-watch activism.
"Shawna came in and was dynamic, engaging, flashy; made all sorts of claims about what she could produce in terms of the Minutemen side," Parris said.
She also told him a compelling back story about being abandoned as a toddler and growing up in the care of the state; years supposedly spent as a wild-child promoter of rock 'n' roll bands; parenthood; and a steady drift toward conservative ideology.
"Here was a person I felt sorry for in a lot of ways," he said. "Never concluding or even suspecting really that this was all a con."
By the time Gilchrist finished speaking in Everett -- June 30, 2007 -- Parris wanted nothing more to do with Forde. He'd pegged her as a ruthless self-promoter who simply took what she wanted.
The trouble started almost immediately. Most traced back to her.
Without Parris' permission, or even consulting him, Forde made decisions about who would be invited to speak and how tickets would be sold.
When he raised questions, Forde got angry, made a scene and quit.
The day of the forum, though, she was there and took the stage.
He didn't object. The event, and what it meant for connecting with voters, was more important.
But Forde wanted to rearrange the speakers' lineup.
Parris said "no."
She walked up behind him, snatched the event clipboard from his hands and headed off to tell others she was changing things.
Parris grabbed the clipboard back and maintained control of the event.
"It was at that moment that our relationship was over," he said.
It would have been anyway, after Parris learned that Forde apparently had pocketed money from sales of forum tickets, which went for $30 each. He went to Everett police to report what had happened, but decided against pursuing a complaint after detectives showed scant interest.
On reflection, Parris realized Forde had attempted to make off with something far more precious: his reputation. Forde's meddling had a purpose beyond money, he said. She was trying to network at his expense. "She's the kind of person who shows up at a meeting with important people, invites herself, and makes you think she is aligned with me, and makes me think that she is aligned with you, and is basking in the glow of credibility," he said.
Forde was able to pull it off, Parris said, because she can "very precisely duplicate" real connection to a cause.
Jim Gilchrist counts himself among those fooled by Forde.
He stuck with her when some questioned her methods. He stood by her through the blood and tumult in Everett that started last December. He remained her ally right up until the day she was arrested in connection with the two murders in Arivaca, Ariz.
"If she hadn't been able to use me she would have used somebody else," Gilchrist said. "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."
Gilchrist said he was oblivious to the behind-the-scenes drama at his 2007 speech in Everett. He'd never met Forde before she e-mailed to arrange his travel. He was impressed by her and her fledgling Minutemen operation and donated the money he was paid to cover his travel expenses to Everett -- cash that actually came from Parris.
Gilchrist gave that money to Forde.
Forde arrived in Gilchrist's life at a time when his running feud with Simcox and other Minutemen leaders left him in need of allies.
He communicated with Forde largely by e-mail, telling her he admired her dedication. Forde praised Gilchrist for being controversial.
"You are a powerful man when in name only you can stir a state," Forde wrote. "I just am amazed sometimes. I've never been attacked so much for a associate. But you are my friend and I'm proud to be associated with you so (expletive) 'em!!"
By early 2008 Gilchrist had made Forde the Minuteman Project's border patrol coordinator. He sent volunteers her way, telling them she "is one tough lady." Forde's role in bringing Gilchrist to Everett was noted in a profile of Minutemen figures around the country prepared by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a high-profile Alabama-based civil-rights watchdog group.
Gilchrist now says his only concerns about Forde revolved around her claims that she was using "undercover" tactics to infiltrate border-area drug traffickers.
"I really thought that she was getting into the wrong crowd and was going to end up murdered," he said.
Gilchrist stood by Forde when her ex-husband was shot, after her reported rape and after her mysterious shooting, when she was wounded in the arm. When The Herald in February revealed Forde's history of childhood felonies and teenage prostitution, Gilchrist said what mattered more was her ability to overcome a troubled past.
"She is no whiner," he wrote at the time. "She is a stoic struggler who has chosen to put country, community and a yearning for a civilized society ahead of avarice and self-glorifying ego."
Gilchrist remained in touch with Forde after she left Everett without giving detectives a chance to question her closely about the attempted murder of her ex-husband.
On the Minuteman Project Web site, Gilchrist continued to post press releases and Forde's dispatches detailing her Arizona border exploits.
One of the last arrived on May 31, just hours after the Arivaca killings.
Forde reported that she and her group had been in "boots on the ground" patrols of the border for eight days and had observed thousands of pounds of dope being smuggled into the country.
"A (sic) American family was murdered 2 days ago including a 9 year old girl," Forde wrote. "Territory issue's (sic) 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."
In a few days Gilchrist began receiving e-mails from a Minuteman in Tucson who had previously let Forde's teenage daughter live at his home. The man asked Gilchrist why a SWAT team had shown up at his door looking for Forde.
"I called her," Gilchrist said. "She was as calm as can be."
Forde told him there was no cause for worry. The man, she said, was a disgruntled former member of her group.
At the same time, though, she was sending out a list of 17 people around the country she wanted contacted if she was arrested or killed. After her arrest, Gilchrist learned he was 10th on her list.
He and Steve Eichler, executive director of the Minuteman Project, almost certainly were among the last people Forde e-mailed before her June 12 arrest. They talked about adding her and her officers to their Web site's list of national Minutemen leaders.
"The border is going to be HOT. Good things to come my brother," Forde wrote Eichler that morning. She was in police handcuffs later that day.
Gilchrist has since scrubbed references to Forde from his Web site. He says she appears to have cloaked her true self behind the Minutemen movement.
"We all have to be aware that there are individuals who have motives other than altruistic ones," he said. "But you don't know until they present themselves."
Many Minutemen who encountered Forde in the Southwest deserts expect to be called as witnesses in her upcoming murder trial.
Among them are two Colorado men who tried to get investigators near Denver to look at Forde's activities in Arivaca. In April, they say, Forde tried to recruit them to help commit home-invasion robberies of people she suspected of drug trafficking.
Their concerns weren't taken seriously until after the Arivaca killings, they said.
Joe Adams also has been talking with law enforcement about Forde. He is a former private investigator from St. Louis whose tough-guy credentials include combat tours with the Marines and federal prosecution for his activities linked to the CIA during the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s.
Forde was fascinated with Adams' "Project Bluelight," which he ran in the desert south of Tucson. Instead of simply observing from lawn chairs, Adams' cadre of well-equipped former Marines went on patrols, looking for people who were up to no good. He told people his operation had the blessing of federal officials, including the Department of Homeland Security.
Adams and Forde at one point were on friendly terms, and she even appeared to brag about the connection during a Feb. 5 interview with The Herald.
E-mails examined by The Herald show that Adams didn't particularly welcome the attention.
Around the time she allegedly was trying to recruit people for drug-house robberies, he told her to get lost.
"Here is what I am suggesting," he wrote in a May 11 e-mail. "1. Stop dropping mine and Project Bluelight's name to give you and your amateur operations credibility. 2. Stay in Washington and off the border for the good of the movement. Shauna (sic), you are a dangerous sociopath and anyone who would listen to your (expletive) is an idiot. You do not know what you are doing, and you put people in the border movement in harms way. ... Go away. Good luck in prison."
Adams refused to be interviewed about that e-mail or others he exchanged with Forde. He confirmed the contents of several messages, including some in which he warned Forde that federal officials had been asking questions about her for roughly six months.
He confirmed that Forde at one point tried to convince him that she had been born into an Italian New York crime family -- "the Gambinis." He also believes she was behind phony messages he received from somebody who claimed to be a former Marine running border teams just like those fielded by Adams.
The messages, sent from an e-mail account controlled by Forde, warned Adams not to threaten her, bragged about Forde's commitment to the country, and suggested she had links to "big brass" in the government.
"I give her projects to work and they get done," one message read. "She uses her good looks to all of our advantage she can get Intel like I have never seen haha."
For months, others in the Minutemen movement received messages from the same e-mail account. Forde led them to believe the e-mails came from Scott Shogren, a former Marine aviator who is now an airline pilot.
Shogren, who now lives Florida, said he hasn't had contact with Forde for years.
He sent none of the e-mails, he said.
They met in 2007 in the Yakima Valley, where Shogren's family is well known. He was drawn to her because she talked about the link between border security and thwarting terrorists.
Shogren's military service took him to Lebanon, and he knew some who died in the 1983 terrorist truck bombing that devastated a Marine compound in Beirut. At least 240 Americans died, most of them Marines.
People who don't worry about border security in the U.S. "are just ignoring the fact that bad guys are coming across, too," he said.
He encouraged Forde to form Minutemen American Defense after she was kicked out of Minutemen Civil Defense Corps.
He later spent thousands of dollars bankrolling her failed attempt to film a documentary about Minutemen on the border.
Forde seemed charming and well-meaning, he said. But she also was a source of personal drama and tall tales, like her claim that guitarist Eddie Van Halen was her ex-boyfriend.
He put up with most of it because they were working for the same goals. But one day she tried to give the former Marine major an order, he said, and that was the end.
He sent Forde a text message telling her he wanted no more contact.
Shogren got a phone call from Gilchrist in June, after Forde's arrest. Shogren was told that Forde had claimed he was the person who truly called the shots for her group.
Others gave him e-mails that appeared to be sent by him but actually were from Forde's e-mail account. Those e-mails took Forde's side in internal Minutemen squabbles, threatening legal action, or worse, against anyone who challenged her leadership.
Shogren said he has no idea why Forde apparently picked him.
"I can't say I really knew Shawna very well," he said. "And I don't think anyone knows Shawna at all."
Mike Carlucci is a Seattle-area private investigator and security consultant. Over the years, Forde told reporters and others that the big, gravel-voiced detective was her link to legal muscle and even how she got dirt on her enemies.
That is a lie, Carlucci said. It's one of many that apparently went down easy in Minutemen circles, he said.
Some within the border-watch movement seem particularly susceptible to manipulation and fraud, Carlucci said. Their groups are largely volunteer, emotional about patriotism and love of country. They can't agree how to conduct themselves and, he said, for some that ambivalence extends to whether they should follow the nation's laws.
"I think it is a user-friendly environment for folks who aren't necessarily accountable because there are not hard and fast standards of accountability," he said.
Carlucci said Forde first came to him in early 2007, seeking advice on security procedures for her Minuteman group.
Forde never hired him, he said, and ignored his counsel. He suggested she conduct criminal background checks on everyone in Minutemen American Defense.
She said no, because "she was familiar with a number of people who had made mistakes in their past and had paid for them, and were some of the hardest workers she knows," he said.
Forde has her own criminal past. So do some of her associates. For example, the man she introduced in Everett last winter as both her boyfriend and a Minuteman is now in prison serving time on the latest of his 15 felony convictions.
Carlucci also told Forde to retain a lawyer if she wanted to make sure the group stayed out of trouble.
She never did.
Still, Carlucci said Forde kept trying to involve him, and before and after her arrest arranged from jail to provide him access to her personal e-mail accounts.
Dozens of e-mails show Forde was in regular contact with Minutemen leaders around the country, right up until her arrest, and that she was relentless about making her Minuteman activism pay her bills.
With police on her trail, the messages show Forde was negotiating a publishing deal to tell her life story to Laine Lawless, an Arizona border-watch figure who now writes on a Web site proclaiming Forde's innocence.
Carlucci said he never took money from Forde, not even when Forde asked him to provide a security escort to Jim Gilchrist of the Minuteman Project when he spoke in Central Washington in February 2008.
He said his last conversations with Forde were earlier this year, when she called to discuss the violent incidents in Everett involving her ex-husband and her.
Forde seemed to have trouble keeping details straight, Carlucci said, and he confronted her about it.
Suspicious, he said he sought out the lead detective Everett had assigned to the case at the time and told him Forde should be investigated in her ex-husband's shooting.
He's been in contact with Arizona detectives since the murders there.
Carlucci is convinced Forde was desperate to be recognized and that the Minutemen movement was a means to that end.
"She had an insatiable need to be validated and it truly didn't matter by who or how," Carlucci said.
Andrew Ong went to the Arizona desert to document not what Minutemen think or say, but what they do.
One night, tagging along with a few of Shawna Forde's team, the young photojournalist witnessed something that still troubles him.
The patrol stopped to check a brushy area for smugglers.
In the dark, Forde picked up a couple of rocks and tossed them over the heads of her Minutemen.
One rock hit something hard. It sounded like a ricocheting bullet.
Convinced they were being shot at, the Minutemen scrambled for cover. Forde quietly laughed behind their backs.
Ong was appalled. "'Have some fun, Andrew,'" he said she told him. "'Have some fun.'"
Later, Forde had her group report to the U.S. Border Patrol that they had been shot at. She also posted a video of the incident on YouTube as evidence of the risks Minutemen were taking to protect the nation's borders.
Ong met Forde in October 2008, not long after graduating from college. He decided the Minutemen movement would make an interesting subject to photograph. He learned about Forde on the Internet and contacted her.
They struck a deal: She'd let him hang out and take pictures if he was willing to give her some photos to use on her Web site.
Ong spent close to two weeks with Forde in the desert, living at a campground south of Tucson that different Minutemen groups were using as a staging area for their border activities.
From what he'd been told, he expected to find a couple dozen people, a command post, a communications hut, a chain of command. Instead, it was just Forde and about five others who didn't seem to have a plan or any notion of how best to patrol the desert.
None of the patrols Ong went on turned up smugglers. The only illegal immigrants he saw were a couple of hapless, dehydrated men from Central America who wandered into camp, begging for water. The men were taken into a cool mobile home and the Border Patrol was called to collect them, he said.
After the ricochet hoax, Ong wondered about other stories she passed along to Minutemen.
One unfolded in Arivaca's lone cantina, a place where some say the locals make sport of visitors by getting them to buy beer for a burro, who drinks from a mug.
"We walked into there and it felt like it was almost out of a movie," he said.
Every head swiveled toward the door when the Minutemen entered.
Then the regulars went back to their beers. Nothing happened, and before long Ong went back to camp.
Forde showed up a few hours later. She claimed a drug kingpin took her, blindfolded, to the house where he'd stashed cash and drugs. She showed Ong a small knife she said the man gave her as a memento of his respect.
Forde told a similar story in a Nov. 3, 2008, e-mail to supporters.
She attached what appeared to be photos of drugs and money.
"Do not share these!!!!!!!!!!!! It would be my life," Forde wrote in the message subject line.
She claimed to have won over the trafficker by agreeing to use drugs with him, and by flashing her signature tattoo: the Minutemen American Defense logo, inked across most of her back.
Forde seemed to spend most of the time on the border laboring over e-mails or articles intended for her Web site, Ong said. She also met with journalists interested in the border-watch story.
In a series of photos, Ong documented Forde on patrol, checking an abandoned home. She pointed a handgun toward the shadows, her uniform a short skirt and high-heeled sandals. Forde was locked and loaded, ready for the bad guys.
Ong said he had a hard time determining precisely what Forde was doing on the border.
"It was very, very bizarre," he said. "It was not at all what I expected."
Scott North: 425-339-3431 or email@example.com.
Andrew Ong last heard from Forde in an e-mail a few months before her arrest. She wanted to post some of his photographs on her Web site. After her arrest, bloggers stole many of his photographs and spread them illegally around the Internet.
Mike Carlucci continues to work as a private investigator, chased at times by journalists put on his trail by Forde.
Joe Adams is a source of intense interest for some bloggers. It started after an Internet talk show host suggested Adams' past ties to the CIA may somehow factor into Forde's fall. He recently told an Arizona newspaper that Forde was a nuisance.
Doug Parris continues to lead The Reagan Wing, blogging regularly about liberals, conservatives and the importance of the rule of law.
Jim Gilchrist remains embroiled in lawsuits over control of the Minuteman Project. Earlier this month, an invitation to speak at an immigration forum at Harvard University was withdrawn by the event's organizers. Investigators haven't approached him about Forde, he said.
Bob and Kathy Dameron are no longer active in the Minutemen movement. They recently provided Everett police with a statement about their time with Forde.
Claims of attacks
Over the years, border-watch activist Shawna Forde has made repeated unproven claims that she and her family have been targeted for violence by Hispanics. Here is a list of some of those events:
Aug. 20, 2006: Forde e-mails other Minutemen, claiming she was attacked by a Mexican man outside a Starbucks in Seattle. She claims he was driven off by a group of U.S. Army troops who happened to be in the area.
Nov. 15, 2006: Forde's car crashes into a guardrail on a highway near Yakima. She claims she was run off the road by Mexican truck drivers.
Feb. 4, 2008: Forde reports her teenage daughter missing and suggests the girl had fought off two prior abductions by Hispanic gang members in Everett. The teen turns up within days, unharmed.
Dec. 29, 2008: Forde reports being beaten and raped in Everett by Spanish-speaking people she claims are linked to drug cartels. The attack comes a week after the near-fatal shooting of her ex-husband inside the same home. The rape investigation ends for lack of evidence.
Jan. 15, 2009: Forde is found in an Everett alleyway with gunshot wounds to her right arm. She says the shooting is linked to the other recent incidents. Later, Forde acknowledges telling police she believes local street toughs, not drug cartels, are behind the violence. Police say there is no evidence to support her Dec. 29 rape claim. They continue to investigate the shootings.
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