On Monday, Minuteman activist Shawna Forde was found guilty of first-degree murder for her involvement in the brutal killings of nine-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father Raul in 2009. A jury convicted Forde of planning a deadly home invasion of suspected drug dealers in order to fund her anti-immigrant activism with the border vigilante group. Forde was also convicted of attempted first-degree murder of Brisenia’s mother Gina Gonzalez.
No drugs were ever found in the Flores’ home, and ultimately Forde made off with only Gonzalez’s wedding ring and a few of the family’s other possessions. But two people lost their lives on May 20, 2009. During the trial Gonzalez testified that she could hear her the gunman stop to reload his gun as her daughter asked why the intruders shot her mother and father. And then her daughter was shot twice at point blank range. Gonzalez survived only by feigning death, and then crawling to the kitchen to find her husband’s gun and fire at the intruders when they returned.
Forde was also convicted of one count of burglary in the first-degree; one count of aggravated assault which resulted in serious physical injury; one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument; one count of armed robbery and finally, one count of aggravated armed robbery, according to Immigration Clearinghouse.
The Daily Beast‘s Terry Greene Sterling landed a jailhouse interview with Forde, who is holding fast to claims of her innocence.
"I know in her mind," Forde said of Gonzalez, "I am guilty and she hates me. I know her tragedy is extremely sad." But on the other hand, she said "people shouldn’t deal drugs if they have kids." (No drugs were found in the trailer.)
Forde told me she’d "lost a daughter" and she knows from experience Gonzalez will feel pain "the rest of her life" and her "tragedy is extremely sad." "I wish I could say I was sorry it happened," Forde said. "I am not sorry on my behalf because I didn’t do it."
Forde also wanted to clarify the role of the Minutement American Defense, a loose affiliation of folks scattered around the country that police the border with their own surveillance equipment and weapons. Forde took issue with the prosecution’s characterization of the Minutemen as a bunch of old folks "in lawn chairs." Greene Sterling writes:
She described her group, MAD, as a vital militarized outfit with a "coastal alliance" and an "air alliance" and about 13,000 members who aren’t "listed anywhere" because their work would be compromised and security would be breached.
Th[e prosecution’s] characterization angered Forde, who told me over the video phone "it was almost a mistake" not to testify in her own behalf, because she wanted to set the jury straight on her Minuteman group, which "runs recon missions" instead of sitting in lawn chairs.
She said she also wanted to testify because "I wanted to put a face on me."
In the end, Forde’s attorney Eric Larsen persuaded Forde not to take the stand. Forde has a long history of ties to right-wing nativist groups like the tea party and the Federation for American Immigration Reform. All have since tried to distance themselves from their enthusiastic leader and constituent.
Forde’s alleged accomplices Albert Gaxiola and Jason Bush face their own criminal trials later this year. Today, the same jury that convicted Forde is hearing evidence to decide whether Forde should be punished with the death penalty.