EVERETT — Minutes before she was found in an alley with apparent gunshot wounds to her arm, Shawna Forde was on the phone with a woman she called Mom, recounting in harrowing detail how she was being chased through the dark streets by mysterious strangers.
A big white car was circling the block as she walked, she said. She was going to duck into an alley in hopes of losing it. She feared for her life.
Even so, Forde never phoned 911 to summon police.
Instead, it appears the Everett woman took time to share with two different women, living in separate states, nearly identical details of a chase as it supposedly was unfolding.
The improbability of Forde living through the same events twice on Jan. 15 prompted Everett police on Wednesday to reopen their investigation into the reported shooting.
It is the latest twist in a odd and tragic trail of crime and violence connected to Forde that began Dec. 22, 2008, when somebody repeatedly shot her now-ex husband in an ambush attack at their home. It culminated weeks ago with Forde allegedly orchestrating a double murder in Arizona and a home-invasion robbery in Northern California.
The January shooting occurred as Forde was under scrutiny by police in Everett, who wanted to question her in connection with the attack on her husband. Forde also was attracting broader attention for her Dec. 29 report that intruders had raped and beaten her at her former home.
She publicly claimed the violence likely was linked to Mexican drug cartels furious about her activism in the border-watch group she ran, Minutemen American Defense. Privately she told police it probably was the work of street thugs who knew her convict son.
Forde is now awaiting trial for first-degree murder and other crimes linked to the May 30 shootings of an Arivaca, Ariz., family. Raul Flores, 29, and his daughter, Brisenia, 9, were killed when intruders dressed in camouflage uniforms and posing as law enforcement took over their home and then suddenly opened fire. The girl’s mother also was shot, but she managed to arm herself with a handgun and drive the attackers away after a gunbattle.
Although they are actively investigating the Dec. 22 attack on Forde’s ex-husband, Everett police recently closed their investigations of Forde’s reported rape and her Jan. 15 wounding.
The detective who was working the cases, who recently retired, simply ran out of leads, although police heard plenty of theories and speculation.
“The problem for us is what about that information helps us get to a point where we can identify a suspect and put together a case that is prosecutable,” Everett police Sgt. Robert Goetz said.
Detectives on Wednesday reactivated their investigation into the circumstances of Forde’s reported shooting.
They took the step after being told by The Herald about recent interviews with people Forde spoke to by cell phone in the minutes before she turned up in the alley with bullet wounds.
Both witnesses say they never were approached by investigators about the shooting.
Rena Caudle, Forde’s biological mother, lives in California. Kathy Dameron lives in Yakima, and at one point Forde was so close to her that she started calling her “Mom.”
Dameron and her husband met Forde in 2006 through their involvement in anti-illegal immigration issues in Washington. They often allowed her to stay at their home. The relationship ended in March after Forde was caught stealing prescription drugs from Dameron’s purse and after she repeatedly abused their trust in myriad other ways, she said.
On Jan. 15, however, Dameron was deeply concerned about her then-friend, whom she was convinced had been targeted by the cartels. That evening, the phone rang.
Forde was on the line. She was walking alone through north Everett and wanted to talk.
Forde told Dameron she’d dropped by a lounge and was headed to visit another friend. The whole conversation lasted at least 15 minutes, Dameron said.
Forde initially seemed unconcerned, but unlike past calls, she was providing a steady update of her progress, including offering the names of streets she was on and the intersections she was near, the Yakima woman said.
Then Forde said “Oh, my god, there is a car following me.”
Dameron urged her to hang up and call police, but Forde instead said she was going to duck into an alley and hide.
“She got into the alley. She said ‘Oh, thank god. Oh, thank god. I lost him,’” Dameron said.
Then Forde sounded panicked: “Oh, my god! Oh, my god! Oh (expletive)!”
“At that point I said, ‘Shawna, are you all right? Do you need me to call the cops?”
Forde said that she did and they both hung up.
Dameron phoned 911 at about 9:30, but she couldn’t be directly connected to Everett police. During an interview Saturday, she blinked back tears as she recalled how helpless she felt as the minutes passed as she tried to link up with police on the other side of the Cascade Range.
After she directed Everett police to Forde’s location, Dameron said she called Forde back.
Forde told her that she’d been shot in the arm, and that police were on the way. She described in detail how she was standing and how she moved when three shots headed her way, Dameron said.
She said Forde told her that the gunfire had erupted while they’d been talking earlier.
“That’s always bothered me because I didn’t hear the gunshots,” Dameron said. “I’d assume that I would have heard the gunshots.”
Dameron said police talked to her after Forde was in the hospital, mainly to explain what would happen to property Forde wanted returned after it had been taken for evidence. She said they never asked her to tell them about the phone conversation she’d had with Forde that night.
Police on Wednesday said they were unaware that Forde also apparently called her mother in California the night she reported being shot. Their cursory review of police reports in the case didn’t indicate whether Forde’s cell phone records were obtained.
Caudle said she never was questioned by Everett police about what she may know regarding Jan. 15. She said Forde called her at her home in Northern California, perhaps as early as 8:30 p.m. — before Dameron said she was called — and told her she was out walking alone in north Everett.
Caudle said she told her daughter that walking alone wasn’t a good idea given her recent troubles, but Forde said she wasn’t worried.
Then Forde reported she was being stalked.
“She says, ‘There is a car following me. It keeps circling the block.’”
Caudle said she told her daughter to hang up and call 911. Instead, Forde told her she was going to hide in an alley, and wait for the car to leave.
“I said, ‘You need to call the police.’ I said ‘Hang up now and call the police,”’ Caudle said.
When Forde didn’t hang up, Caudle said she broke the connection.
Later, from the hospital, Forde told her mother that she’d called Kathy Dameron instead of police, Caudle said.
Both women now are suspicious that Forde somehow staged the shooting in a bid to confuse the police investigation into her ex-husband’s shooting. He was ambushed in his home by a narrow-faced man who has yet to be identified. Police have named no suspects.
Forde left her marriage with no job and few resources. Before the divorce was final, she talked about how she’d be better off financially if “something happened” to her then-estranged spouse, Dameron said.
“Then she said ‘Oh, I’m just joking. Ha ha, ha,” she recalled.
Forde was questioned the night her husband was nearly killed. She called from the police station to say she was scared and wasn’t involved, Dameron said.
Forde left Everett for Arizona before providing police with an opportunity to be questioned in greater detail about the attack on her husband, Goetz said.
“We talked to her that night and we made several attempts to interview her as well, and she always found a way to not show up,” he said.
Scott North: 425-339-3431, firstname.lastname@example.org