Shawna Forde

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Arizona Minuteman leader Shawn Forde is on trial, accused of killing nine-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father Raul during a home invasion in May 2009. Terry Greene Sterling, journalist for The Daily Beast, discusses the case.

Jose Cardenas: Thank you for joining us. I'm Jose Cardenas.

Jose Cardenas: People across Arizona and the country continue to discuss last month's shooting of 9-year-old Christina Greene of Tucson. There is another infamous shooting of a 9-year-old girl that you may have forgotten, but it's making headlines right now in southern Arizona. It's the second week in the Shawna Forde trial. Forde and two others are charged with two counts of first degree murder. Authorities say they forced their way into a home in Arivaca, Arizona, south of Tucson in May of 2009, looking for drugs and cash. They have all pled not guilty. 9-year-old Brisenia Flores was shot and killed along with her father Raul. Her mother was also shot, but she survived. Shawna Forde is the leader of Minutemen American defense and accused ringleader of the fatal home invasion. With me to talk about this case is Terry Greene Sterling, a journalist covering the Forde trial for "The Daily Beast." Welcome to "Horizonte."

Terry Greene Sterling: Thank you.

Jose Cardenas: We know the rough outlines of what happened back in may of 2009. We talked about them in the introduction. What's the story that's coming out in the trial?

Terry Greene Sterling: Let me take you into the home of Gina Gonzalez and her husband Raul Flores on the night of May 30th, 2009. They have two daughters, one daughter is on a sleepover with grandma, and the other daughter, 9-year-old Brisenia Flores is asleep in her -- in the living room because she's gotten a new puppy. Mom had just washed the sheets, changed the bed, she said Brisenia, if you're going to sleep with the puppy, you have to sleep on the couch in the living room. So Brisenia is asleep in the living room, and again, this is the early morning of about 1:00 in the morning. And there's a knock on the door, Raul Flores is sleepy, he gets out of bed, he goes to answer the door, and there is a man and a woman there dressed in camouflage, heavily armed, saying they're law enforcement authorities and they have -- they have intelligence that they're fugitives in the area and they have to come into the trailer and search it. Gina Gonzalez, the mom, throws on a T-shirt and joins dad, she sits near Brisenia on the couch, Raul sits in a chair and Raul almost instantly recognizes something is very wrong. He notices that the weapons of this man and this woman, the woman apparently does haven't weapons, but the man's weapons have duct tape wrapped around them, and he also notices they haven't offered any I.D. When he questions them about this they, they shoot him. He falls back on the chair. Then they shoot Gina, then one person shoots Gina Gonzalez. Once in the chest, and once a bullet shatters her thighs. So she can't walk. Or her hip. In that area. Brisenia wakes up, mom is on the floor playing dead, dad is wounded, Brisenia wakes up, and the gunman, or the killer almost instantly starts questioning her about the other child. And she won't tell them where her sister is. Or where her grandmother lives. And she asks, "why did you shoot my mom, why did you shoot my dad?" The gunman reloads his weapon and she says, "please don't shoot me" and is pleading for her life. He shoots her once in the nose and once in the side of the head. Gina Gonzalez, the mother, is playing dead on the floor, out of the corner of her eye she sees her child fall back on the couch. In the meantime, the gunman has shot Raul Flores five times. The gunman and whoever is with the gunman, the woman, the accomplice, they walk outside, they leave the trailer. Gina immediately calls 9-1-1 and tries to see what she can do to save her child, who is in convulsions and vomiting blood. Suddenly the woman comes back in the trailer and says, "oh, my gosh, there's somebody alive" and Gina Gonzalez knows that she's going to be murdered. The 9-1-1 operator is still on the line, Gina Gonzalez somehow makes it to her husband's gun, her husband has a gun in the house for safekeeping. She sort of takes cover near the washer and the drier. She doesn't know how many bullets are in the weapon. She waits until the gunman comes back in the house and until he gets close. The safety is off the gun, she shoots, the gunman shoots at her, she can hear the bullets ricocheting off the washer and dryer. She injures the gunman. He screams, and leaves the trailer. And then Gina waits, severely injured and in shock, for the emergency medical people to come. They can't save Raul, they can't save Brisenia, but Gina survives. What I have just told you is Gina's testimony in the trial of Shawna Forde, who is alleged to have created this plot --

Jose Cardenas: before we get into the details, we've got a picture of her that we showed at the beginning, and we may be able to put that up again.

Terry Greene Sterling: OK.

Jose Cardenas: She has I would say at best a very chaotic ground. And last few years -- background and has been focusing on immigration.

Terry Greene Sterling: Yes. She lived in Washington, she had a very troubled childhood. Was -- lived in foster homes, had lots of scrapes with the law as a young person. Eventually became a beautician in Everett, Washington, and was attracted to this border vigilante movement and began moving back and forth between Arizona and Washington, and visiting with Minutemen on the border. She was attracted to this. Eventually at some point she started her own very small Minutemen group, and her idea --

Jose Cardenas: That's Minutemen American Defense, MAD.

Terry Greene Sterling: Right, and her idea according to prosecutors, was to rob Raul Flores of money and drugs so that she could fund her border vigillante activities. Raul Flores, according to locals who testified in the trial for the prosecution, was a drug dealer, although no drugs were found in the house. And there's been no evidence so far that he really was a drug dealer, other than the testimony of another drug dealer who said that he and another man accused of being Shawna Forde's accomplice had plotted for a long time to kill Raul Flores so that he wouldn't be competition in the drug trade. And may I say, these are not what we would call successful drug dealers by any means.

Jose Cardenas: We're going to talk about some of the other people involved. Shawna Forde, the allegations are that she was involved in other violent acts.

Terry Greene Sterling: Well, she's charged in this trial with two counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted murder. And home invasion related crimes. But I think what we're talking about, her mother, her own mother had accused her in the press of another home invasion. And her brother had told a newspaper that he believed that she should have the death penalty.

Jose Cardenas: The level of Shawna Forde's involvement in these vigilante activities was fairly significant. She was on PBS documentary, as I understand it.

Terry Greene Sterling: She was on a PBS documentary, it was -- it wasn't a documentary, it was an immigration-themed show in which she claimed to be a representative of the federation for American immigration reform. Which is called a hate group by the southern poverty law center.

Jose Cardenas: And they've disowned her.

Terry Greene Sterling: They said they had nothing to do with her. And they also say they're not a hate group. But she did visit with Glen Spencer at the American border patrol, who is not a Minutemen, but he's involved in border surveillance and sort of high-tech vigilantism, you might say.

Jose Cardenas: Shawna Forde claims she's innocent, she says she wasn't even, there but there's evidence suggesting she was.

Terry Greene Sterling: Shawna Forde --

Jose Cardenas: in addition to the testimony --

Terry Greene Sterling: Shawna Forde, yes, it's really important to know that she pleaded not guilty, she said she was not at the murder site the night this happened, and there is little evidence she says linking her to the crime, prosecutors have -- when Shawna Forde was arrested, according to prosecutors and police, Gina Gonzalez's jewelry was in her car, some of it. And some of that -- one piece of jewelry had some of Shawna Forde's DNA on it. It's not a hearty DNA sample, but -- and Shawna Forde is claiming this isn't enough, I wasn't there, I didn't do it. And there's nothing you can do, you know, to prove that I was there.

Jose Cardenas: Let's talk briefly about the other accused members of this trio, they're not on trial yet, but they will be. Two gentlemen, we've got some pictures of them that we'll show in a moment. And when they come up perhaps you can tell us who's who. One of them is Jason Bush.

Terry Greene Sterling: Right.

Jose Cardenas: And is this Mr. Bush here?

Terry Greene Sterling: Yes.

Jose Cardenas: And his background is also pretty -- he's the alleged gunman, right?

Terry Greene Sterling: Jason Bush is the alleged shooter. He is also pleaded not guilty, and he is coming to trial in March. And he said -- he says he didn't do it, of course, but he is a suspected serial killer, and he is charged also with knifing a Mexican man in Washington, killing him, stabbing him. He has not been brought to trial for that. He was -- he pretended that he had a career in the army, although he hadn't been in the military. He had a lot of military paraphernalia, and I.D.s. And he is a white nationalist, had ties to white nationalist. According to police.

Jose Cardenas: And then there was a local man involved, Albert GALLOLA.

Terry Greene Sterling: Albert had been in California --

Jose Cardenas: This is him on the screen are.

Terry Greene Sterling: Yes. He lived in Arivaca, he comes from a very old family of vast heritage in Arivaca, and he had some scrapes with the law with drugs. He is alleged to have been part of the home invasion team, and again, he pleaded not guilty. There was testimony by another drug dealer for the prosecution, and this drug dealer said he and Albert had plotted to kill Raul Flores for -- to eliminate the competition.

Jose Cardenas: Now, one thing that's been to a concern to observers, in addition to the horrific murder of an innocent young girl and the killing of her father, is just the reaction. So about a year later, Robert Krentz is killed, we don't know who killed him. There's speculation, but that's all it is, that it was somebody who had crossed the border illegally. Just a great outrage, expresses of outrage across the country. But nothing comparable with respect to this killing by alleged Minutemen.

Terry Greene Sterling: No. It's very interesting, because the killing of Robert Krentz certainly was tragic and no one would want that to happen. He was a good man. But it was political, and it was really the event, I believe that caused the passage of SB 1070, because it terrified Americans about -- terrified Arizonans and Americans about border security. And even though SB 1070 has nothing to do with border security, everyone supported SB 1070 because of the Krentz killing. The Brisenia Flores killing got a little bit of press at the beginning, but here is an American citizen, an innocent child, murdered in a terrifying way, whose last moment were moments of terror. And her mother, who must live with this all her life. And nothing really that -- there was no outrage. There was no outrage that this child was killed. And she was actually ironically killed allegedly by those who profess that they wanted to secure the border.

Jose Cardenas: Last question, Terry, the weeks, the trial's been two weeks so far?

Terry Greene Sterling: Yes.

Jose Cardenas: When do you expect it to wrap up.

Terry Greene Sterling: If Shawna Forde is acquitted, maybe -- if Shawna Forde is found guilty, it will go into a death penalty phase, it will last another maybe three weeks. But if she is acquitted, then it will be over maybe in a week or two.

Jose Cardenas: OK. Terry Greene Sterling thanks for joining on us "Horizonte."

Terry Greene Sterling: Thank you.

Terry Greene Sterling:The Daily Beast;

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