Police believe a white supremacist who attempted to enter Arizona politics and advocated using deadly force against illegal immigrants shot and killed four people, including an infant, before turning the gun on himself.
Authorities have no motive for Wednesday’s mass shooting in a quiet area of Gilbert, Ariz., but they believe it was sparked by an episode of domestic violence between Jason “J.T.” Ready, 39, and Lisa Mederos, 47, whom he was said to be involved with. Along with Mederos, police identified the other victims as: Amber Mederos, 23, Lisa’s daughter; Jim Hiott, 24, Amber’s fiance; and their 15-month-old daughter, Lilly.
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Ready was a founding member of a group called the U.S. Border Guard, an extremist vigilante group that staged armed patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border to watch for illegal immigrants. He was vocal in his animosity toward illegals, even going as far as saying in a video: “I firmly believe in having a minefield across the border. This is 100% effective,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been monitoring Ready’s activities for years.
An ex-Marine, Ready tried to align himself with the political establishment in Arizona, even creating an allegiance with politician Russell Pearce, a onetime president of the state senate. But after Pearce found out about Ready’s extremist ties, including links to neo-Nazi groups, he broke off contact. Ready was also a prospective candidate for Pinal County sheriff.
However, police do not know if Ready’s views have anything to do with the explosion of violence at the house he reportedly shared with Mederos. The victim’s daughter Brittany, who survived the incident, reportedly told police that she was in the bedroom of the house when she heard gunshots and screaming. Gilbert police say Lisa, Amber, and Lilly Mederos were found in the house, while Hiott and Ready were found outside. It is unclear there was any kind of struggle. Lilly was taken to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead.
“This is a domestic situation. We do have a witness that our investigators are interviewing,” said Gilbert police spokesman Sgt. Bill Balafas, in reference to Brittany.
Heather Morton, who worked at a Wendy’s restaurant with Amber, told the Arizona Republic that Ready met the two Mederos sisters at the eatery and started a relationship with their mother. It is unknown if the family, who is Hispanic, knew about Ready’s extremist views. He moved in with her but his relationship with the woman was so rocky that Amber and Hiott moved out with their child.
Bud Napples, who rented Amber and Hiott an apartment when they moved, said things were beginning to turn around for the young family. “They both had work, and he was so happy about that,” he told the Republic. “He had Lilly in his arms, and he was just happy.”