By Scott North and Elaine Helm Herald Writers
He called himself “Gunny” and reportedly told his pals in the Minutemen American Defense border-watch group that he was a decorated Special Forces veteran who’d survived combat in Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Instead, there is no record that Jason Eugene Bush served in the military as he claims, spokesmen at the Pentagon said Wednesday.
Court records reveal Bush, 34, to be a sometimes-violent ex-convict who spent much of his teens and early 20s behind bars, and once told the court he had long-standing problems with debilitating mental illness.
Until his arrest last week on multiple murder charges, Bush was “operations director” for the anti-immigration group directed by Shawna Forde, 41, of Everett.
On the now-defunct Web page for the group Forde ran, Bush — or “Gunny,” as former members say he was known — was introduced as someone who had served six overseas tours and had received the Purple Heart and the Silver Star.
In a January 1998 declaration in Chelan County Superior Court, Bush said he’d been treated for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia since the mid-1980s, when he was 12. At the time, Bush said he worried that mental problems would hinder his ability to assist in his own defense in a stolen property case.
“For most of my life since the age of eleven or twelve, I have had an experience of being outside myself, of watching another person take over my body,” Bush said in a 1998 court declaration. “I start going haywire and I don’t know what I’m doing or why. It’s like being in a daze. I don’t know why it happens and it scares me. It’s like someone else crawls under my skin. It is very frustrating.”
Bush was examined by mental health experts 11 years ago, and found competent to stand trial. He wound up serving nearly five years in prison for a variety of charges, including auto theft and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Bush now finds himself jailed in Arizona along with Forde and another man, all charged with first-degree murder in connection with a May 30 home invasion.
The trio are accused of having passed themselves off as law enforcement officers to force their way into the home of an Arivaca, Ariz., man they suspected of drug trafficking.
The intruders, all dressed in camouflage, and one of them with his face painted black, fatally shot Raul Flores, 29, wounded Flores’ wife, and killed the couple’s 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia.
Bush also is charged with second-degree murder for a 1997 stabbing death of a Wenatchee man. He allegedly was connected to the killing earlier this year based on genetic tests on evidence collected nearly a dozen years ago.
Wenatchee police say they’ve found Bush has “long-standing” connections to white supremacists, including people associated with Aryan Nations, according to court papers.
The nickname “Gunny” often is applied to people who have earned the rank of Gunnery Sergeant in the Marine Corps.
There are no service records matching Bush’s name and date of birth, Marine Corps spokesman 1st Lt. Brian Block said at the Pentagon on Wednesday.
Army spokesman Richard McNorton also said he found no matches for Bush in Army personnel records.
Chuck Stonex of Alamagordo, N.M., a Minuteman who earlier supported Forde but has since broken ties, said he only met the man who called himself “Gunny” a couple of times.
Once was May 30, Stonex said, when Forde asked him to provide first aid to a minor gunshot wound on Bush’s calf. Forde and Bush misled him about how the wound was received, he said.
Stonex said he met Bush not long after at a Tucson, Ariz., restaurant. He said Bush showed him what appeared to be military paperwork documenting Special Forces training as well as medals from combat operations.
“He claimed that he got hit twice; once in Iraq and once in Somalia,” Stonex said.
Stonex described himself as a veteran of combat in Vietnam.
Bush’s deception about prior military service “makes a mockery of us veterans, I think,” Stonex said Monday. “It is really, really poor taste. It is like impersonating a priest.”
Court papers show that Bush has been in trouble with the law since 15, when he was prosecuted for felony property crimes in northern Idaho. He was convicted in Kansas in 1994 for burglary as well as assault on a female corrections officer and attempted escape, documents show.
His Washington state criminal history includes juvenile and adult convictions for property crimes and assault, including a March 1998 beating of another inmate at the Chelan County jail. The victim in that case suffered broken bones in the face. The victim believed the attack occurred because of his sexual orientation, but Bush denied that motive, court papers show.
Before he went to prison in the late 1990s, Bush had worked as a welder, according to court papers.
It is unclear when Bush met Forde. Arizona police allege that he participated in a plan orchestrated by Forde to raise money for their group through crime. In addition to the Arizona killings, police in Arizona, California and Washington are investigating the pair for potential connections to robberies and other violent acts.
When he was introduced on Forde’s Web page not long ago, Bush promised to have an impact on border-area crime, eschewing “beer, binoculars and lawn chairs” for “boots on the ground, recon, surveillance and ACTION.”
He was quoted at the time: “My goal is to bring the full force of our collective abilities down on the bad guys. This will make waves.”
Reporter Scott North: 425-339-3431; firstname.lastname@example.org.