GILBERT, Arizona (Reuters) - A prominent border militia leader and reputed neo-Nazi is believed to have shot and killed four people before turning a gun on himself following a domestic dispute at a home in a Phoenix suburb, police said on Thursday.
Police believe Jason Todd “J.T.” Ready opened fire at a house in Gilbert on Wednesday, killing his girlfriend, her daughter, the daughter’s boyfriend and their toddler daughter, then shot himself, Gilbert Police Sergeant Bill Balafas said.
Ready, 39, founded the U.S. Border Guard, a private-citizen militia in Arizona. He said in a posting on the group’s website: “We are under attack at this very moment but not by invading troops (yet) or communistic threat ... . What or who is it you ask? Just look around your neighborhoods and your schools. Look at the violence on T.V. Look at the border.”
Ready had long-held ties to neo-Nazi groups in the United States, the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center said on their websites.
Police identified the dead as Lisa Lynn Mederos, 47, who they said was Ready’s girlfriend; Amber Nieve Mederos, 23; Jim Franklin Hiott, 24; and 15-month-old Lily Lynn Mederos, who was still alive at the scene but later died in a hospital.
Police found the child and the bodies of two of the adults inside the home and those of the other adults outside.
“We feel safe to say that this was a domestic violence issue. There was an argument and this is purely a domestic situation,” Balafas said.
At the time of the shooting, a female witness was in the home. Balafas said “she heard arguing, she heard gunshots (and) came through a back bedroom and located the bodies.”
Officers recovered two handguns and a shotgun from the scene. Balafas had said late on Wednesday that police had been unable to search the house after an unknown liquid was found in two 55-gallon (208-litre) drums outside the house.
The FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force had joined the investigation after “military grade munitions and ordnance” were found at the crime scene, Balafas said.
Amber Mederos worked at a nearby Wendy’s restaurant, and was reported to be in the process of moving out of her mother’s home because of tensions with Ready, who also lived there.
Her final posting on Facebook on Tuesday evening read: “Time to get the drama out of (my) life and make a better life for me my daughter and my love.”
A profile of Ready by the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center said he had attended neo-Nazi gatherings in Nebraska and Phoenix, and railed against Jews and “Negroid immigration” in white nationalist online forums.
He also advocated deadly force to stop Mexicans from crossing into the United States illegally, and favored laying a minefield along the U.S. border, the center said.
Writing by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Xavier Briand