The suspected shooter in Wednesday’s murder-suicide in Gilbert, that left five people dead, is a man with past ties to a neo-Nazi organization. He was also the founder of an armed vigilante group that patrolled Arizona’s southern border for illegal immigrants. Learn more about J.T. Ready and the status of hate groups in Arizona from Bill Straus, Executive Director of the Arizona Anti-Defamation League.
Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Yesterday's shooting incident that left five people dead at a house in Gilbert is believed to be an act of domestic violence. That's according to police who are still searching for a clear motive. They believe that 39-year-old Jason J.T. Ready shot and killed four people, including an 18 month old child, before ready took his own life. the case is getting extra attention because of Ready's past association with a neo-NAZI organization and his role as the founder of a group of armed volunteers that patrols the southern Arizona desert for illegal immigrants. Here to tell us more about Ready and hate groups in Arizona is Bill Straus, regional director of the antidefamation league in Arizona. Here to tell us more about ready and hate groups in Arizona is Bill Straus, regional director of the antidefamation league in Arizona. Always good to see you. Confused
Bill Straus: same here.
Ted Simons: this is a tough story. Who was J.T. Ready?
Bill Straus: J.T. Ready was one of many people who subscribed to an ideology that not only blames certain segments of our society for all the ills of the world, but also an ideology that preaches violence should be used as a solution to problems. And I'm hypothesizing, possibly not just national geo political problems but personal as well.
Ted Simons: As far as his profile in Arizona, I know that there was -- he aligned himself with certain high profile politicians.
Bill Straus: You have to ask yourself, how did J.T. Ready cross over from extremism to the mainstream? As much as he did. A lot of these guys would like to. J.T. got further than most. I have to conclude that his connections allowed him to do that. He ran for city council in Mesa. Albeit a losing candidate, but he ran. He spoke at city council meetings. He was a precinct committee chair for one of the parties. Running for sheriff of Pinal County. J.T. -- it's dangerous when extremists start shanghaiing the dialogue surrounding issues. It's really dangerous when they start moving into the political arena.
Ted Simons: How was he allowed to move into the political arena? How was he allowed to Shanghai the political dialogue?
Bill Straus It's a great question. Keep in mind, it's America. So J.T. Ready has every bit the right to run for office or be part of the political process as you or I do. The fact is when you look at J.T.'s record and we have had him on our radar since I started in this job 11 years ago, he has a history of at the very least embracing violence rhetorically. The immigration issue gave J.T. a forum that otherwise he may not have ever had.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about the immigration issue and the dynamic between white supremacists, neo-nazis, hate groups, and those who really have a strong opinion, a strong feeling toward illegal immigration.
Bill Straus There's a distinct difference. I am getting phone calls all the time from people, I want a solution to the illegal immigration problem and you think I'm a NAZI. That's not true. We don't broad brush people. I care about this issue. The anti-definition league opposes any illegal activity including illegal immigration. The fact is, J.T. was allowed to be a featured speaker at a lot of events including several on the grounds of the state capitol. He was a star of the anti-illegal immigration movement. Shame on anyone who allowed that to happen.
Ted Simons: Russell Pearce has released a statement in which he basically says he had nothing to do with J.T. ready once he found out his neo-NAZI and hate group leadings and attacked the media for continually finding some association between him and Ready. You spoke to him about this individual in the past. Talk about their relationship and your relationship.
Bill Straus: October of 2006 Russell sent out a volatile anti-semitic email who controls the media in America. I wonder if that includes channel 8.
Ted Simons: We'll look into it.
Bill Straus: Yeah. And you know, it was horrible. I got a cell phone call from Russell the day after it happened apologizing. That resulted in a meeting between the two of us. At the meeting I showed him pages and pages from neo-NAZI and white supremist websites extolling him as the hero of their movement and ideology. I also shared with him, pictures of certain individuals in Arizona, one being J.T. Ready. Five months after that we brought in our national director of investigative research and he and I did a presentation at the state capitol. A two and a half hour presentation. J.T. Ready was a focal point of that presentation. We wrote a report in 2003 identifying J.T. Ready as a dangerous threat in Arizona who was going to use the immigration issue for all it's worth. For Russell to say that he didn't know about him and then he cut ties with him as soon as he found out about him, that's simply not true.
Ted Simons: you spoke to him about him.
Bill Straus: I did. Russell denies that I ever brought up J.T. ready in that meeting.
Ted Simons: The relationship -- okay, we could go on with that. The idea of spokesman for the minuteman project, American border guard business in which vigilantes patrolling the border armed, patrolling the border, is this stuff increasing? Is it starting to pull back a little bit? We got static issue with immigration in general, illegal in particular. Because of the times is that reaction to this problem waning?
Bill Straus: I think reaction might be waning a bit. But let's talk for a moment about the fact that within the past year, J.T. ready had his own militia patrolling the border, armed. Where was the outcry, the owed rage? When reporters came to my office and said you must be very upset about this, I looked them in the eye and said I don't know what upsets me more, the fact that J.T. is patrolling the border or the fact that only voice in this community that's outraged apparently is Adderall L.
Ted Simons: Why is that?
Bill Straus: I think that it's a situation where we in Arizona are so desperate for a solution to a problem that has increased exponentially in the past few years -- sorry about that. I don't want to take the time to turn it off. We'll do anything. We'll turn to any means of solving the problem. I liken it to someone who is suffering pain in their arm. They can't get a doctor or any kind of medical advice and they can't get any medication. Eventually the pain gets so bad this person thinks about cutting their arm off. That's I think in Arizona how we have reacted. We are among all the states the most desperate to get some kind of grasp of this which has gotten worse every year.
Ted Simons: we got about 30 seconds. This horrific as it is, the attention that it's getting, does it change the dynamic?
Bill Straus: I Don't think it changes the dynamic but I'm worried about the martyr-like language I'm reading, the border guard issuing a statement yesterday they lament the untimely death of J.T. Ready. How disconnected from reality is that verbiage? So I worry about what's going to happen next, but I worried about that now for not just a couple years. For probably 11 years.
Ted Simons: Well, and ongoing. Bill, take you and your phone both. Thank you.
Bill Straus: I'm sorry we both have to leave.
Ted Simons: It's alright. Thanks.
Bill Straus:Executive Director, Arizona Anti-Defamation League;