Once Powerful Minutemen Now Facing Jail and Execution

Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, with Shawna Forde of Minuteman American Defense in 2007, a year and a half before she led an operation that killed two Latinos.
Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, with Shawna Forde of Minuteman American Defense in 2007, a year and a half before she led an operation that killed two Latinos.

For many years Long Island Wins provided extensive coverage of the self-proclaimed Minutemen. These one-time darlings of Fox News were members of several armed anti-immigrant militias. Competing with each other in right-wing fundraising schemes, they went into decline as details of their sordid financial dealings came to public light. And, although the Minutemen claimed to have carefully vetted the armed men and women they put on the border, revelations that their leaders and foot soldiers ranged from drug dealers and prostitutes to child molesters and murderers contributed to the decline.

The 2009 killing of a Latino man and his nine-year-old daughter Brisenia Flores by the leader of Minuteman American Defense was the final nail in the Minuteman coffin. The double-murder was part of a plan by Minuteman leader Shawna Forde to rob suspected Latino marijuana smugglers to fund her right-wing extremist organization. Brisenia Flores was shot in the face in cold blood as she pleaded with the Minutemen to spare her life.

Shawna Forde and her deputy Jason Bush were sentenced to death for the Minuteman killings and a third member of Minuteman American Defense was given life in prison. Bush was a member of various white supremacist groups and had executed so-called racial enemies before, including a Latino and a gay man.

Back at the time of the killings, Long Island Wins played an unusual role in the battles among Minutmen. Because most Minuteman websites essentially shut down after the murders to evade police investigators, Minutemen began sending us tips on their rivals. These ranged from the nonsensical, we got pictures that we never published of a Minuteman leader in women’s clothes, to damning photos of the head of the Minutemen at the border meeting with Shawna Forde, a woman he claimed to barely know.

All of this comes to mind because Minuteman associate Oin Oakstar was found dead in October in Everett, Washington. Oakstar was the drug smuggler who helped the Minutemen target Brisenia Flores and her family. He later turned state’s evidence and testified against the other three Minutemen to keep himself out of jail. Although he is from the borderlands of Arizona he apparently moved to Everett recently and was living homeless under a bridge. Everett was the city where Shawna Forde, once a prostitute, had risen to Minuteman leadership and run for office on an anti-immigrant party ticket.

Meanwhile, Shawna Forde’s original mentor, Chris Simcox is awaiting trial on multiple counts involving child molestation.  The founder of Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, Simcox was a key adviser to Long Island’s own anti-immigrant organizations, serving as a consultant to the Sachem Quality of Life organization. The Sachem group was the leading ally of former-Suffolk Country Executive Steve Levy in his own anti-immigrant campaign.

The mother of one alleged victim says that Simcox molested her daughter every time she played with Simcox’s children.  Simcox is facing life in prison, but the prosecutor, an ally of Sheriff Joe Arpaio is offering a plea deal. District Attorney Bill Montgomery had worked with the Minutemen and appeared at a fundraiser with Simcox prior to the Minuteman’s arrest. The mother of one of Simcox’s alleged victims says that the prosecutor is cutting Simcox a sweetheart deal.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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