PHOENIX (AP) — The FBI was already conducting a domestic terrorism investigation of an Arizona border vigilante when the man allegedly killed four people and then himself this week, officials said.
James Turgal, special agent in charge of the FBI's Phoenix office, tells The Arizona Republic (http://bit.ly/KnPzO4 ) that his agency's probe of Jason Todd "JT" Ready had nothing to do with the murder-suicide stemming from a suspected domestic dispute in a Phoenix suburb Wednesday.
Ready was the leader of the U.S. Border Guards, a group of armed civilians that patrols the Arizona desert for illegal immigrants and drug smugglers.
Turgal said the FBI's investigation dated to when Ready was a member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement and continued into his participation with the border group. The probe is based on tips of criminal activity that Turgal would not specify.
The report published Saturday says the killings have given the FBI access to Ready's documents and computers.
Search warrant affidavits obtained by the Republic show federal agents seized numerous computers and munitions from the Gilbert home where Ready lived and died in an apparent murder-suicide. The documents and Turgal's comments show that the federal government had an interest in Ready's activities unrelated to this week's murders.
The warrants imply weapons seized at the murder scene were stolen from the U.S. military. Focus on those weapons could trigger a larger federal investigation.
Turgal was careful to distinguish the ongoing federal investigation from the Wednesday shootings in Gilbert that took the lives of Lisa Lynn Mederos, 47, Ready's girlfriend; Lisa's daughter Amber Mederos, 23; Amber's 15-month-old daughter, Lilly; and Amber's boyfriend Jim "Jambob" Hiott, 24.
"Yes, we did have an ongoing domestic-terrorism investigation into J.T. Ready," Turgal said, "but that has nothing to do with the horrible murders committed there."
The murders gave the FBI access to Ready's documents and computers inside the home where he lived with Lisa Mederos and another of Lisa's daughters, Brittany, 19.
"Certainly, when the FBI looks at those computers, they will be interested in everything there, including other militia activity," former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Paul Charlton said.
Documents connected to the search warrant show that the FBI agents seized two computer towers and two laptop computers, correspondence, cellphones, police and Nazi uniforms, White-supremacist propaganda, bank statements and "documents w/poss(ible) co-conspirators."
Agents seized two assault-style rifles and multiple rounds of ammunition. The reporting FBI agent focused on "approximately two dozen military ordnance/40 millimeter grenades" loaded with explosives, tear gas, buckshot and smoke. An FBI bomb expert confirmed that the latter "are most likely stolen from the military as they are illegal to possess and not available to the civilian market," the agent wrote.
"On the basis of the above-described facts, your affiant respectfully submits there is probable cause to believe there is a violation of theft of government property and/or possession of illegal explosives and these items likely traveled through interstate commerce."
Gilbert police had said earlier they only found two handguns and a shotgun at the home. It's unclear if the FBI found the additional weapons in the house or somewhere else.