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Musings from the Sonoran Desert and elsewhere

Amy McMullen

Amy McMullen
Gold Canyon, Arizona, USA
January 01
Amy McMullen is an activist for human rights, social and economic justice and a blogger and political essayist currently residing in Arizona. Her main interests are anti-racism, immigrant rights, LBGTQ equality, health justice and women's rights. She has worked to remove the worst of the anti-immigrant, Tea Party politicians from office in Arizona and advocates to get progressives elected. Amy's former incarnations include back-to-the-land counter culturist in the 70s, small business entrepreneur, Bed and Breakfast proprietor, charter boat captain, EMT, medical assistant and rehabber of distressed homes.. She currently volunteers for the Phoenix Urban Health Collective as a street medic and is on the board of a new nonprofit devoted to providing free medical care for the uninsured and under-insured in Phoenix. Amy's writings on social justice and other subjects appear in Truthout, Salon, Addicting Info, The Tucson Sentinel, The Pragmatic Progressive and on her blog at Open Salon.

Editor’s Pick
MAY 4, 2012 10:37AM

Border Vigilante With Political Ties Dead in Murder/Suicide

Rate: 15 Flag


J.T. Ready and Arizona Senator Russell Pearce  

A peaceful early May afternoon in a Phoenix suburb was violently shattered when a notorious white nationalist opened fire on his girlfriend and her family, killing four including an 15 month old baby before turning the gun on himself.

The details are still emerging but at this time it appears that on May 2nd, border vigilante and candidate for Pinal County sheriff,  J.T. Ready, dressed himself in body armor and entered his girlfriend, Lisa Medero’s home in Gilbert where he had been living. He then shot Lisa, her daughter Amber, Amber’s fiancé Jim Hoitt, and Amber’s 15 month old daughter Lilly before killing himself.  Lisa’s other daughter was either in the home or arrived after the event but, in any case, was unharmed. The baby was still alive at the scene when police arrived but died shortly thereafter at the hospital.  Numerous weapons, including anti-tank grenades were found at the house

I find this difficult to write about because I’ve followed Ready with a kind of disgusted fascination over the past three years and have seen him on several occasions at different rallies I’ve attended. The first was when we protested a Nazi rally in November of 2010 and all hell broke loose as black bloc protesters and police clashed, and more recently in October when he and his buddies showed up with their weapons to Occupy Phoenix .


J.T. was never shy about his white supremacy leanings. There are numerous videos online where he goes on at great length describing his hatred of blacks, Mexicans, Jews and anyone else not of pure white European blood. He envisioned a continent where whites had their own homeland and where people of color were repelled by any means, including violence. While he oozed white supremacy at every pore, he also denied he was a supremacist, instead calling himself a white nationalist, as if this was somehow less racist and more acceptable. He was an active member of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) for several years, showing up at their neo-Nazi rallies with swastikas, flags and Hitler salutes. He always described Hitler as an “excellent white civil rights leader”.

More recently, Ready headed up a border vigilante group called Ready’s Rangers that conducted heavily armed patrols of the deserts south of Phoenix in search of drug cartels and what he called “narco-terrorists." He had been trying to redefine himself as more of a mainstream patriotic defender of US sovereignty and had quit the NSM the previous year. He even started a campaign to run for sheriff of Pinal County, ironically as a Democrat, claiming he wanted to bring the democratic party back to the values of George Wallace.

Ready was propelled onto the national spotlight back in 2010 due to his long-standing friendship with Arizona state senator Russell Pearce. After the passage of Pearce’s immigration bill SB1070, all eyes pivoted on Arizona and the nativists in the legislature. Rachael Maddow’s now-famous expose of the racist roots of SB1070 showed pictures of Pearce and Ready arm-in-arm smiling for the cameras juxtaposed with photos of Ready lined up and smiling with a bunch of Nazis. It was that very same expose that helped motivate me to speak out against the anti-immigrant legislation that Pearce has tirelessly defended as well as his supporters at national anti-immigrant groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and pro-prison lobbies including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that stood to benefit enormously from the detention of immigrants.

Civil rights activists in Arizona had been writing about, videoing and exposing the connections between Pearce and Ready for years of course, but it took a spot on MSNBC before the rest of the country caught on to just how blatantly racist SB1070 was. Later Russell Pearce was recalled from the senate and nobody (except Pearce) is denying that his associations with extremists and his single-minded focus on immigration were factors in his defeat.

Of course Russell Pearce did scramble to distance himself from Ready, a man that he had  baptized and ordained into the LDS church.  J.T. described Pearce as a surrogate father and told of how he and Russell would stand on Pearce’s front porch together and tell Mexican jokes; they were that close. But once J.T. refused to participate in cloaking his racism in the manner nativist Arizona politicians like Pearce have long since mastered, Pearce had to cut ties. First he pretended he didn’t know Ready at all but when it became obvious they had a long standing relationship, Pearce had to backtrack and claim ignorance about Ready’s leanings. In his statement to the press after the shootings, Pearce once again attempted to rewrite history on his close attachment to Ready, something that one can only hope will be seen as the  fabrication it is during Pearce’s new campaign to recapture his senate seat.

As much as Ready loved to pontificate about his love of country devoid of brown folks and as much as he displayed his guns and got together with the boys dressed in camo and gilly suits to run around in the desert playing commando, it was hard to take him very seriously. He talked a good talk but often those who do are all talk. But sadly I, and many others misjudged the man. I figured him for a loudmouth blowhard; more revolting rhetoric than substance.

The violence he espoused now on display in so horrific a fashion is like a reality punch to the gut. Speculation is running wild that one of the men in camouflage who shot at a truck full of undocumented migrants, killing two, in the desert not long ago could have been Ready. Whether or not this is true, we all now know the level of violence that Ready was capable of, including turning his gun on a tiny child, one he is purported to have called “half ugly” because of her half Latino heritage.

There is no denying that Arizona is a dangerous state. We rank seventh in the nation for gun deaths and sixth for gun slayings. The violence is real, the guns are real and the hatred is real. Arizona is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as being the home of seventeen hate groups.  Ready’s followers on Facebook have been spinning conspiracy theories, claiming his death was at the hands of a cartel assassination squad instead of acknowledging his act of mass murder and extreme cowardice.

Sadly, those supporters and other like-minded people are still out there, armed, dangerous and true to their cause, whether they be vigilantes patrolling the desert proclaiming to be patriots, or men in political power who speak the language of dog whistle racism while wrapping themselves in the American flag.

Arizona, if ever there was a time for a wake-up call, this is it.


 Watch Rachael Maddow's latest blistering expose of the connection between J.T. Ready and Russell Pearce.

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I agree men should be banned.
Interesting commentary, but I should remind everyone that the worst anti-women bills in the Arizona legislature were all introduced by women. Recently the republican party trotted out several women to oppose the Violence Against Women Act. This isn't a gender issue, it's an ideology issue. I've got numerous photos of women marching with the NSM in Arizona, they're just as susceptible to hate as anyone else.
Very sad for many reasons. The EP was deserved. I hope it reaches a wide audience.
I've never heard of the guy, but it sure sounds like the world's better off without him. Too bad he had to take so many other people with him. What a piece of garbage.
Wake-up! Wake-Up!! WAKE-UP!!!

EP earned.
I find it odd that he wore body armor. It shows he did not plan to blow his own brains out...or he was just flipping loony toons from the outset, which the rest of the article seems to indicate.

Those who patrol the borders are not all white supremist, mass murdering nut jobs, I'm sure, but I'll be damned if I understand it.
If I'm going to patrol somewhere, I'd rather be paid.
Unless of course, it's on my own personal compound. At that point, it's just good exercise.
I despise these Hitler loving freaks. If my Grandfather were alive, he'd be bashing in their skulls with his M1 Grand.
God help these morons should I ever come down with an uncurable disease. I still have that old M1 and plenty of 30-06, and at night she whispers for Nazi blood.
baltimore - You don't go far enough. It's humans. Without those, we'd be fine. This is why we must all spay and neuter our kids.
Something like the old anti-fascist league is what we need now in this country, but the model of watch-and-wait seems to be dominant. In the UK, where the political formation of the far right in the BNP offers a subject to organize around and oppose, the organization Unite Against Fascism has been successful. This is their website:

But again, the kind of distraction and two-faced support of conservatives in America--that is, their relatively cowardly support of these shadow groups and the cover a big party machine like the GOP offers to them--makes it more difficult to sustain this level of organized opposition. Good reporting.
Sad stuff all around. Keep up the good works, Amy, making Arizona a little smarter and a bit safer. My sweetie photo'd some of the Neo Nazi rallies that got popular right around the time Palin was also campaigning here, and he got a bit of tear gas on him- I think you wrote about one of those rallies. We all know that underneath all that hatred is ignorance and fear, which is unfortunately what pushes people to make more war and cause more ignorance and fear.
Awful story. So much rampant hatred in the world, glad he at least had the decency to commit suicide. And why kill a baby?
I haven't set foot in Arizona since the 1970s, and I don't plan to anytime soon. The thought of going there terrifies me. How could a man slaughter a baby? Reminds me of the stories about the Nazis killing Jewish babies for sport. Also, the term "nativist" doesn't apply here in the United States to people of purely European extraction. That would imply no one lived here before the Europeans arrived as immigrants themselves. Thank you for telling the truth.
I am surprised that nobody on Open Salon is comparing the militia movement and the minutemen to the German Freikorps movement.

This was a group of ex- military veterans and right-wing radicals that trained in the woods and tried to fight "liberals" and "socialists" and basically acted like a paramilitary army in waiting for many years, until an organized right-wing mass movement came on the scene that was capable of absorbing them, organizing them, and turning them into something far more lethal and national in scope.

That movement would be the Nazi Party and it would be led by a former homeless man and failed art-student wannabe that nobody took seriously.

The Freikorps would join the Brownshirts and the training they received while in the former would make them super lethal in their fights against the police, liberals and anybody else that opposed them. Indeed, the military started to fear them and they pushed Hitler to purge them, eventually in the Night of the Long Knives, but that is a tale for a different day.

The moral of the story is that we should be organizing and doing all that we can to stop the right from training a solid cadre of armed, professional para-military forces.

What do you think they will use these forces for, when the timing is right?
I mean, seriously. Occupy Wall Street is busy running away from cops with tear gas in major cities, meanwhile authorities do NOTHING about thousands of right-wing radicals training with sub-machine guns, assault rifles, grenade launchers, GPS tracking devices, aerial tracking drones, laser-sights, mortars, light machine guns, heavy machine guns, sniping rifles, armored all terrain vehicles and sophisticated computer-assisted communications equipment.

I mean, seriously?
Again, I think the key is some type of more formal organization. In the council elections in the UK yesterday the BNP, the nationalist and fascist party, lost almost all their seats, due in no small part to the pressure group Unite Against Fascism's counter-campaign. It's important to realize, however, that UAF has public support from government officials across the spectrum. It's hard to imagine the rather detached corporate political establishment in America doing the same thing. The political establishment in Britain is at least tied closely to local constituencies, that is, there's a closer connection between national and local politics. But something like this is not out of the question here.
Several comments point out the violence to women in Ready's act. True there was, but the mind of individuals like Ready aren't that simple. He, no doubt, considered the people he killed property and would have killed boys as well as girls had they been there at the time.
What I find interesting is the fact that his girlfriend was a latina. If the child was half-ugly which side was ugly? R
Lisa Medero, Ready's girlfriend, was white. Her ex husband is Latino and her daughter, Amber was half Latino. Technically Amber's daughter Lilly was a quarter Latino even though Ready referred to her as "half ugly". As more unfolds about this case, it is apparent that Ready was abusing this family for quite a while. But it is also clear that they shared at least some of his views on immigrants and race. Amber's fiance had accompanied Ready on his vigilante border patrols and Amber herself had appeared on a local radio show with Ready and claimed she supported his views. She was also treasurer for his campaign for sheriff for a while.
Great post, really sad about the baby but it's to be expected from brutal people. I'd never heard of him or any of this so I'm glad to get more information. Of course it's not something Arizona would want to advertise to increase tourism, or their image. In any case I'm from Idaho and we have enough hate groups in some areas that I don't need to travel to find hate. Though we are only 15th of 50 on the gun deaths chart, according to the SPLC we have 18 hate groups.

I don't think it's all that surprising considering that he espoused violence. Violence is what violent people do and it's always easiest to kill or hurt those you're closest to since your enemies have their guard up. I bet Pearce and the rest of his buddies are feeling pretty lucky right now. Maybe they'll start having their own whacked to insure their own safety or power if distancing themselves won't do. No way of ever knowing what people who espouse hate or violence will do when they don't get what they want, except that it won't be peaceful.

I hope this is a wake up call for everyone. Thank you for the post.
Thank you. I have been unfamiliar with J.T. Ready until now. Sadly those around this situation who need to be shocked by this are apparently unfazed and find in this tragedy justification to continue as before.
Great reporting but I don't understand why he killed his family. I just don't get it.