The intention is to memorialize the death of a 9-year-old Arizona girl. But a civic ceremony in Everett today is really about the life of Shawna Forde, the former Seattle prostitute and current death row inmate. Her deadly methods now the basis for a lawsuit against the Justice Department, Forde serves as an example of how the redneck politics of Southwest border activism can be born and bred in the liberal Northwest.
The girl and her father, Raul Junior Flores, 29, were gunned down in a 2009 robbery-turned-bloodbath in Arivaca, an Arizona border town where Raul Flores and one of the killers, Albert Gaxiola, were rival drug smugglers.
Gaxiola recruited Forde and another home-grown Washington militant, Jason Bush of Wenanchee, to help him rob Flores. Forde, the ex-Boeing worker and Everett city council candidate who went on to start a border-watch group called Minutemen American Defense (MAD), had planned to use proceeds from the robbery to expand her group into a Blackwater-styled militia operation, combating drug dealers and illegal immigrants.
This month, Gina M. Gonzalez, wife and mother of the victims who also was shot twice but survived the break-in, filed a federal suit against the U.S., claiming the FBI knew in advance of the robbery plan but failed to stop it.
Police informant Robert Copley was at a Colorado militia meeting where he heard Forde describe "her plan to invade a home in Arivaca, Arizona for the purpose of 'securing' it, and stealing the drugs, weapons and money Shawna Forde suspected were being stored there," the lawsuit claims.
But when Copley informed the FBI about the plot, agents failed to pass the tip along to local authorities, Gonzalez claims. The informant also gave the agency a map to Flores' home that, the lawsuit says, was subsequently lost by the Phoenix FBI office.
Considered the robbery ringleader, Forde was sentenced to death last year in a Tucson court. Bush, who was fingered as the actual shooter inside the victims' trailer home, was also sentenced to death. The white supremacist is suspected of at least five other likely race-related murders and an attempted murder in the past two decades. Gaxiola received a life sentence.
It is "Because this militia-style group came out of our community," says Meg Winch, chair of the Snohomish County Human Rights Commission, that today's event is being held to stand "against this type of hate-based activity."
Writer David Neiwert, who covered Forde's trial and is writing a book about the case, says Arizonans regularly asked him "How could you people in western Washington have allowed this woman to get away with crimes up there and then come down here and kill a little girl and her father?"
He's convinced that local police failed to fully investigate assorted crimes by Forde, including a fake rape and assault report and the December 2008 murder attempt on John Forde, her then-husband who was divorcing her.
"If Snohomish County leaders are serious about honoring the memory of Brisenia Flores and preventing these kinds of crimes in the future," Neiwert says in a piece for The Herald, "they will step up to the plate and deal vigorously with these issues."