TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) – The FBI could have stopped convicted murderer and border activist Shawna Forde and her accomplices from killing a 9-year-old girl and her father during a home invasion, family members claim in Federal Court.
Forde, the founder of the Minutemen American Defense group, was sentenced to death in 2011 for the murders of Raul Flores and his daughter Brisenia during an invasion of the Flores home in Arivaca, Ariz., a small, rural community just north of the Mexican border.
Forde and accomplices Jason Bush and Albert Gaxiola believed that Flores was a smuggler, and they planned to steal his guns, drugs and money to fund their anti-immigration group.
The group killed Flores and Brisenia in May 2009, shooting the 9-year-old in the face. Gina M. Gonzalez, Brisenia’s mother, was shot twice but survived.
Gonzalez claims in a negligence lawsuit filed this week that an FBI agent in Colorado had received a tip that Forde was planning a home invasion, but failed to do much about it.
Colorado FBI Agent Chris Anderson had allegedly been with the agency for less than a year in April 2009 when informant Robert Copley reported an upcoming meeting to discuss the raid plans.
Anderson merely “instructed Copley to attend the meeting, gather information and report back,” Gonzalez says.
Later, Copely gave Anderson specific details about the planned invasion, including a map to Flores’ home that Gonzalez claims was subsequently lost by the Phoenix FBI office.
“On or about May 15, 2009, Robert Copley … and several other individuals attended the meeting in Aurora, Colorado,” the lawsuit states. “At the meeting, Shawna Forde described 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. Forde stated her belief that Arivaca was a crossroads of drugs, money and gun trafficking.”
“Robert Copley told Agent Anderson that he considered the threat posed by the planned home invasion to be both real and imminent,” the complaint adds.
Despite the tip, Anderson failed to warn law enforcement officials in Arizona about the planned operation, Gonzalez says. Had he done so, the incident might have been prevented, as a local sheriff’s deputy ran across the conspirators in Arivaca before they had carried out the crime, but let them go.
“A few days before the home invasion, Forde and a then unidentified male companion (now believed to be Jason Bush) approached Pima County Sheriff’s Deputy H.O. Anderson, Jr. while he was on patrol in Arivaca,” the lawsuit claims. “Forde identified herself to Deputy Anderson and explained that she was in the Arivaca area with other individuals doing Minutemen type work. Had Deputy Anderson been notified of Forde’s plan to commit a home invasion, Deputy Anderson could have prevented that crime by arresting Forde and her male companion for violating A.R.S. §13-1003(A).” (Parentheses in original.)
Gonzalez says that FBI Agent Anderson violated agency policy by failing to warn local law enforcement about the tip. She seeks damages for herself and her minor son for the wrongful death of Flores and her child, and for her own pain and suffering.
“At a minimum, the DOJ rules required Agent Anderson to make a limited disclosure of the information to the appropriate law enforcement agency and to obtain written approval from his supervisors not to make a full disclosure,” the complaint states. “In violation of these mandatory, non-discretionary rules, neither Agent Anderson nor any other FBI personnel made any kind of disclosure of Forde’s home invasion plans to local law enforcement.”
Gonzalez is represented by Stanley Feldman of Haralson Miller in Tucson.