Jason "J.T." Ready, a former US Marine who became one of the most visible white supremacists in the country amid the Arizona immigration debate, allegedly killed his girlfriend, her daughter and young granddaughter, and another man Wednesday in Gilbert, Ariz., just a few weeks after a white supremacist in Pennsylvania was sentenced to death for a similar crime.
A presumptive candidate for sheriff in Arizona's Pinal County who had national political aspirations, Mr. Ready, police say, appears to have been the aggressor in an apparent “domestic incident.” Experts on extremism say the shootings don’t appear to be grounded in ideological mission, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which usually doesn’t look into domestic crimes, has joined the investigation.
Some in the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, of which Ready was a member until three years ago, have suggested that the killings may have been an ambush by narco-terrorists, adding to speculation that Ready was an FBI informant. The bureau would neither confirm nor deny that suggestion, according to a local news outlet.
The Gilbert shootings follow an ordeal in Washington State last week in which police traced survivalist Peter Keller to a massive earthen bunker, where he eventually killed himself after he shot his wife and 19-year-old daughter.
The Gilbert shootings, along with federal concerns about a rise in US-based extremism and membership in right-wing nationalist “patriot” groups, highlight to some the dark side of an emerging nativist strain on the American right, specifically how some proponents of violent ideologies target women, even children, in their private lives. The tragedy in Gilbert comes a few weeks after a white supremacist in Pennsylvania, Michael Parrish, was sentenced to death for killing his girlfriend and their baby in 2009.
“Quintuple murder-suicides [as in the Ready case] are rare and certainly shocking, but domestic violence by white supremacists against women, including assault, sexual assault, and murders, are not at all uncommon,” says Mark Pitcavage with the Anti-Defamation League, which is preparing a report on that subject. “Everything points to this being a domestic incident where there are personal and psychological motives. But that being said, Ready comes from the white supremacist subculture, which is a culture that condones violence and has a high association of violence.”
Ready had vied for political office several times in Arizona. He ran unsuccessfully for the Mesa City Council in 2006, previously served as a Republican precinct committeeman in Arizona, and most recently had announced his intent to run for Pinal County sheriff as a Democrat. After he was outed as a white supremacist by the Phoenix New Times in 2007, he embraced the label, even as Republican Party figures – including his former mentor, former Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, who said "he's not my friend" – distanced themselves from Ready.
“Family members of mine have been involved in Southern politics for years,” Ready wrote in one undated manifesto published online. “Both republicans and democrats grace the roles of the Ready family name. The blood of statesmen and warriors and rebels flows through our veins.”
In his manifesto, he says he has studied radical Islam and was tortured in “a notorious Mexican prison.” Most recently, he had vowed to protect a group of Occupy protesters in Phoenix from police reprisal. One of his promises in his sheriff's campaign included naming a street after the late George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party.
As a founder of the US Border Guard, which conducted paramilitary expeditions in remote border areas, he intercepted teams of drug-running "mules" and other border-crossers, turned over drug stashes his group found, and said he was fighting to keep Mexico’s narco wars from spilling over into Arizona.
He told the Southern Poverty Law Center, which in recent years pegged Ready as one of America’s top white supremacists, that he feared assassination.
“He could play the clown, but always menacingly,” writes columnist Stephen Lemons of Phoenix New Times, who maintained a relationship with Ready even after he wrote scathing articles about him.
According to Fox News, authorities believe Ready shot and killed his girlfriend, Lisa Mederos; Amber Mederos, Lisa’s daughter; Jim Hiott, Amber’s boyfriend; and Lilly, Amber’s toddler daughter.
Authorities reported finding guns and chemicals at the crime scene, perhaps explaining the large law-enforcement response to the shootings, said to include US military trucks. Some within the paramilitary and neo-Nazi communities, however, saw in the government's response the shimmers of conspiracy.
“There is a smell in Arizona, millions in cartel money flowing in, Operation Fast and Furious running guns to drug terrorists with taxpayer money, government officials only inches away from millions of dollars that make the difference, a very thin difference between Arizona being part of the United States and a minor ‘outcropping’ into ‘Gringoland’ for billionaire cartels who have the wherewithal to test any and all, threats, money, it is all on the table,” writes columnist Mike Harris at Veterans Today, a conspiracy-minded military affairs and foreign policy website. “Or is this just a family murder and a government with too much time on its hands?”
Ready’s friends in the white supremacist movement expressed disbelief of the official version of events.
“J.T. Ready was my friend,” writes Harry Hughes, a spokesman for the National Socialist Movement, on a blog called Just Another Day, on Thursday. “He was a patriotic American, despite any negative views other people may have. Mr Ready risked his life to protect this country from drugs and worked hard to help other people. J.T. Ready was the last person on Earth that would harm others, especially a child. In regards to the circumstances surrounding his death, I'm not jumping to any conclusions or making any unscientific speculations at this time.”