GILBERT, Arizona (Reuters) - The Neo-Nazi founder of an anti-immigrant border militia 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 the young couple’s toddler daughter. He then shot himself, Gilbert Police Sergeant Bill Balafas said.
Ready, 39, founded the U.S. Border Guard group, a private-citizen militia in Arizona that advocated deadly force to stop illegal immigration over the border from Mexico.
Ready had long-held ties to neo-Nazi groups in the United States, the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center said on their websites.
“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 said in a posting on his group’s website.
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 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.
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.”
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 on Wednesday. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said six grenades were also retrieved from the house by a bomb disposal unit from Luke Air Force base, near Phoenix.
“The reason we contacted them is because it is military ordnance,” ATF agent Tom Mangan told Reuters. He said the explosives were live, and investigators were tracing the serial numbers on them to determine their provenance.
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 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.
A chilling propensity to violence was apparent in a blog posting by Ready on the U.S. Border Guard website.
“Some of us have our fingers on the triggers; Soap box. Ballot Box. Ammo box. These were given to us by our founding fathers and mothers,” Ready wrote. “We have just about depleted the first two options.”
Police had been called to the house on five previous occasions, for incidents including domestic violence, disorderly conduct and suspicious activity. None of the incidents resulted in charges being brought.
Writing by Tim Gaynor; editing by Barbara Goldberg and Todd Eastham