By Scott North Herald Writer <i>&Copy; 2009 The Daily Herald Co.</i>
EVERETT — People within the Minutemen movement warned authorities weeks ago that border-watch activist Shawna Forde was talking about robbing suspected drug traffickers, but law enforcement officials did not seem interested in the tip, says a source who claims he later helped detectives connect the Everett woman to a deadly home-invasion robbery in Arivaca, Ariz.
“I think this whole thing could have been avoided,” said the man, a leader in the Colorado Minutemen group, which opposes illegal immigration from Mexico.
He spoke on the condition that his name not be published at this time. He expects his identity and his role in the case eventually will become public once first-degree murder charges against Forde work through the courts in Pima County, Ariz.
Deputy Dawn Barkman, public information officer for the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, on Monday declined comment on the man’s story.
The department’s refusal to comment makes it impossible to verify all of the Minuteman’s claims. Some details of his story, however, including previously unpublished information about Forde’s arrest, have been substantiated.
The man also supplied e-mails that appear to have been sent to him by Forde, 41, in the days after the May 30 robbery and double killing in Arivaca.
“I’m in deep and now have targets on my head including big brother,” reads a June 3 message sent from Forde’s e-mail address. “I don’t know who will take me out or set me up.”
In a June 5 e-mail, Forde apparently writes about getting a tip that sheriff’s detectives in Tucson were looking for her.
“So just for your eyes now the po po (police department) is inquiring,” the message reads. “Let them.”
Forde had run the Minutemen American Defense border-watch group. She and two others are charged with the shooting deaths of Raul Flores, 29, and his daughter, Brisenia, 9. The pair died May 30 and the girl’s mother was wounded when intruders opened fire after forcing their way into the home by pretending to be law officers.
The Minuteman from Colorado said he and others were told by Forde that she was planning a home-invasion robbery in Arizona.
The man said he was contacted early this spring by Forde, who knew of him from his Minutemen activities. Although they had not met, he claims she asked if he would be interested in helping her rob people suspected of involvement in smuggling near the border.
The man said he didn’t turn Forde down, but in April told law enforcement officials about her request. They showed little interest, he said, declining to identify the officials or their agency.
The man said he offered to assist in helping an undercover investigator infiltrate Forde’s group to make arrests before a crime was committed. The man said his offer was declined.
Meanwhile, he said, Forde pressed to set up a meeting to discuss staging robberies. After consulting with others in his group, four of the team decided to attend. They planned to later secretly share what they learned with law officers, he said.
“She had no idea,” he said of Forde.
Recounting a May 15 meeting with Forde near Denver, the man said the conversation initially was hypothetical, and there was an agreement that there would be no action for months.
But then, he said, “She starts bringing up Arivaca.”
Forde allegedly told the group she “had a guy” in Arivaca who could not only identify drug traffickers for home invasions but also help sell any drugs seized, the man said.
Forde, who was open about needing cash, allegedly pressed for immediate action. She began contacting members of his Minutemen group directly, trying to recruit them, he said. She got no takers.
Within hours of the Arivaca killings, Forde contacted an Arizona-based associate of the man and asked him to bring sutures to patch up one of her crew who had been wounded. The Colorado Minuteman’s contact did not go. Instead, Chuck Stonex, a New Mexico man who was a former member of Forde’s group, has acknowledged binding a wound on the leg of Jason Eugene Bush, 34. Bush has since been charged along with Forde.
The Colorado Minuteman said he learned of the Arivaca killings when an associate sent him a newspaper article a few hours after the shootings. He said the article was sent by another Colorado Minuteman who said of Forde “she did it.”
The man said he called the law enforcement officials who earlier had passed on focusing on Forde.
“They became very interested when I made a phone call and said ‘Well, it happened,’ ” he said.
In the days that followed, the man said he was interviewed by Pima County detectives and worked with investigators to try to get Forde on the phone or to send e-mail messages. Detectives were seeking Forde’s whereabouts in part by tracking her cell phone use, he said.
“Minutemen are the people who put the kink in her tail,” he said.
Forde was arrested near Sierra Vista, Ariz., by an FBI team that tracked her to the home of Glenn Spencer, president of American Border Patrol, a group that monitors border security using airplane surveillance, the man said.
Forde was arrested a short distance from Spencer’s home.
Barkman from Pima County confirmed that FBI agents were involved in Forde’s case because she was a fugitive.
Spencer on Monday said Forde had no affiliation with his group, although last year he had allowed Forde and her teenage daughter to live in an unused recreational vehicle on his property. Spencer broke ties with Forde over concerns about her behavior and judgment, he said.
“She was actually going to leave her daughter here,” he said. “I … was not happy with this person, and I did not want to affiliate with her any more.”
On June 12, almost two weeks after the Arivaca killings, Spencer said Forde simply showed up at his house and was admitted by the woman who runs his office.
“I was on my computer working on our report and she showed up right behind me,” he said.
Forde asked to use one of Spencer’s rooms to send an e-mail from her laptop computer. He let her, and then she left.
“That’s where I want to leave it,” Spencer said.
Forde was arrested about a mile from Spencer’s home when she drove up to an FBI road block.
She remained jailed in Tucson on Monday, held in lieu of $1 million bail.
Reporter Scott North: 425-339-3431; firstname.lastname@example.org.