By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times –
LOS ANGELES — Jason Todd Ready never made a secret of his passion for right-wing politics and related causes, both of which got the bearded, barrel-chested former Marine branded a racist, an extremist and a bigot. In a lifetime of moving through mainstream politics in Arizona as well as within the semi-military world of less-established groups, Ready built a reputation for in-your-face confrontations, founding an armed volunteer group dedicated to patrolling the Mexico border and ending the smuggling of illegal immigrants and drugs.
On Wednesday, Ready entered a Gilbert, Ariz., home and opened fire, killing four people, including a 15-month-old girl, said Gilbert Police Sgt. Bill Balafas. Ready then turned a handgun on himself, ending his life at age 39, the sergeant said.
Ready, known as “J.T.,” lived in the house with Lisa Lynn Mederos, 47; Mederos’ daughter, Amber Nieve Mederos, 23; and the daughter’s boyfriend, Jim Franklin Hiott, 24. Amber’s toddler daughter, Lily Lynn Mederos, died while being treated at a hospital.
The shootings were described by Balafas in an interview with the Los Angeles Times as an apparent case of domestic violence, although what set off the incident was still under investigation.
“There was an argument inside the residence,” Balafas said Thursday, “but we don’t know about what.” Police have responded to other domestic-disturbance calls at the residence, he said, though there were no immediate details about those.
“We never had a homicide investigation this large here before,” Balafas said.
In addition to the weapon that Ready used, another handgun and a shotgun were found at the home, Balafas said. The Joint Terrorism Task Force and FBI agents removed military-grade munitions and two barrels of chemicals found behind the home, authorities said.
Ready was best known as the founder of the U.S. Border Guard, a volunteer group whose members dress in military garb and armor and carry weapons while on patrol for illegal immigrants in the desert area near the border.
In a posting on its website, the group, which is not affiliated with the government, mourned what it called “a senseless act of violence. … God bless you, J.T. You will be fiercely missed.”
Ready earlier this year set up an exploratory committee to run for the office of sheriff in Arizona’s Pinal County. A Facebook page titled “JT Ready for Sheriff” carried a message from the administrator that said there were unconfirmed reports that “a cartel assassination squad murdered JT Ready and several of his friends and family this afternoon in Gilbert Arizona.”
Ready was also a former member of the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group that advocates citizenship only for those of “pure White blood,” with “no Jew or homosexual” allowed to be a citizen. Ready left the group around 2010 to pursue more traditional politics such as his run for sheriff, said Duke Schneider, a National Socialist Movement spokesman in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times.
“He was a complete gentleman,” Schneider said of Ready. “He was very militaristic by nature, politically minded by nature and someone commonly referred to as a people person. … We were all very surprised by the shooting. Ready was generally a person who always appeared extremely stable-minded, never in a bad mood. It’s a tremendous shock.”
Ready’s opponents were less kind. In its profile, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, described him as a white supremacist. The Alabama-based civil rights organization said Ready apparently got his start in politics as president of the Mesa Community College Republican Club and became increasingly involved in local issues in the early 2000s.
According to the center’s biography, Ready received a bad-conduct discharge from the Marines in 1996, after being court-martialed twice — once for larceny and going AWOL, and once for conspiracy and assault. The site also lists a 1992 criminal conviction for property damage and assault after he and a friend destroyed a car mirror with a baseball bat.
Ready ran for political office at least twice in Mesa and once as a write-in candidate for U.S. Senate. In 2004, he ran in the Republican primary for a House seat from District 18. In 2006, he ran for Mesa City Council from a heavily Hispanic district and finished second among four candidates.
A year later, Ready caused a commotion at a Mesa City Council meeting when the mayor denied him permission to speak in opposition to a Mesa police detective who was campaigning against hate crimes.