All of America continues to mourn the unbelievably tragic loss of Christina Green, the 9-year-old granddaughter of former Phillies' manager Dallas Green who was killed, along with five adults, by a murderous madman trying to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson. The sight of Christina's parents and brother in the gallery at the State of the Union address last night is more proof that the killing of such an innocent continues to resonate with the American people.
You've heard all about Christina Green, but do you know about Brisenia Flores? Like Christina, Brisenia was 9 years old, and she also lived in Pima County, Arizona, not far from Tucson. Like Christina, she was gunned down in cold blood by killers with strange ideas about society and politics.
But there are also important differences. While the seriously warped mind of Christina's Tucson murderer, Jared Lee Loughner, is a muddled mess, the motives of one of Brisenia's alleged killers-- a woman named Shawna Forde -- are pretty clear: She saw herself as the leader of an armed movement against undocumented immigrants, an idea that was energized by her exposure to the then-brand-new Tea Party Movement. But unlike the horrific spree that took Christina's life, the political murder of Brisenia and her dad (while Brisenia's mom survived only by pretending to be dead) has only received very sporadic coverage in the national media. That's a shame, because it's an important story that illustrates the potential for senseless violence when hateful rhetoric on the right -- in this case about undocumented immigrants -- falls on the ears of the unhinged.
This week, Forde is on trial on Tucson, and the details are horrific:
As her mother tells it, 9-year-old Brisenia Flores had begged the border vigilantes who had just broken into her house, “Please don't shoot me.”
But they did -- in the face at point-blank range, prosecutors allege, as Brisenia's father sat dead on the couch and her mother lay on the floor, pretending that she too had been killed in the gunfire.
Why did Forde, said to be the “mastermind,” and the other alleged killer, Jason Bush, carry out this heinous crime? Prosecutors allege that Forde cooked up a scheme to rob and murder drug dealers, all to raise money for the fledgling, anti-immigrant border patrolling group called Minutemen American Defense, or MAD.
I wrote about Forde and her warped “politics” in my recent book, The Backlash. I noted that in April 2009 -- as first reported by Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times, an authority on nativist, right-wing groups in Arizona -- Forde was amped up after attending her first Tea Party on the steps of the state capitol in Phoenix.
“This is the time for all Americans to join organizations and REVOLT!!!,” she wrote in a blog post that was retrieved from the Google cache by Lemons. “Refuse to be part of a system only designed to enslave you and your children. Times will be worse before they get worse. *Say no to illegal immigration* Lock and Load, Shawna Forde.”
It was this same month that Forde and her ragtag Minutemen band allegedly approached drug dealers in southern Arizona with a scheme to kill and rob their rivals for cash. One of Forde's goals, allegedly, was to buy a 40-acre property near the border that she intended for her group to use as a base for raids -- which she called “Delta One Operations” -- on undocumented Mexicans crossing the border.
Forde and her co-conspirator Bush -- who reportedly has ties to the white supremacist Aryan Nation -- broke into the home of 29-year-old Raul Flores, Brisenia's dad, on May 30, 2009, or just six weeks after Forde's online call for a political revolt. As related this week at Forde's ongoing murder trial:
According to testimony, Bush shot Flores, then Gonzalez. Gonzalez was hit in the shoulder and leg and slumped to the floor. She testified that she played dead as she heard Bush pump more bullets into her husband as Brisenia woke up.
“Why did you shoot my dad?” the girl asked, sobbing, according to Gonzalez's testimony. “Why did you shoot my mom?”
Gonzalez said she heard Bush slowly reload his gun and that he then ignored Brisenia's pleas and fired.
In the wake of the Tucson shootings earlier this month, there was a lot of talk about hateful rhetoric and violent imagery in American politics, and there was a lot of pushback when it emerged that the gunman in that case, Loughner, didn't follow mainstream politics, just some extreme crackpot theories on the Internet. But what happened to Brisenia Flores is different. She lost her life because a couple of unhinged crackpots absorbed all that “lock and load” blather in our atmosphere and actually did something about it. We should not be shocked. But we do need to figure out how to make sure that never again will the life of innocent girl end because of this political madness.
And just as we will never forget Christina Green, America needs to always remember Brisenia Flores.