Murders of Raul and Brisenia Flores

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Floreses' murders
Junior and Brisenia Flores.jpg
Raul and Brisenia Flores
Location 36000 block, Mesquite Rd
Arivaca, Arizona
Date 30 May 2009
c. 5 a.m. (UTC-7)
Attack type
Armed robbery
Home invasion
Premeditated murder
Weapons Firearm
Deaths Raul Flores, Jr., 29
and his daughter
Brisenia Ylianna Flores, 9[1]
Non-fatal injuries
Gina Maria Gonzalez, 31, and attacker Jason Eugene Bush, 35
Perpetrators Shawna Forde
Jason Eugene Bush
Albert Gaxiola
Defender Victims' wife, mother
Gina Marie Gonzalez, 31

On May 30, 2009, Raul Flores, Jr., 29, and his daughter, Brisenia Ylianna Flores,[1] 9, of Arivaca, Arizona, were murdered at home during a robbery by Shawna Forde, Jason Eugene Bush, and Albert Gaxiola, who were convicted of the murders.[2]

Both Raul Flores and his daughter, Brisenia, were born in the United States and were thus American citizens as is Gina Gonzalez, the victims' wife and mother who survived the attack.[3]

Brisenia was a third-grade student at the Sopori Elementary School in Amado, Arizona at the time of her death.[4]


During the trial, jurors were told that Forde and her accomplices gained entry to the Flores home by claiming they were officials looking for fugitives and that the suspects had the expectation of finding money and drugs that could be sold to finance Forde's militia group, the "Minutemen American Defense", which patrolled Arizona's border with Mexico. When they found no drugs, the intruders took jewelry but, prosecutors said, not before fatally shooting the child and her father.[5]

Gina Marie Gonzalez, 31, wife of Raul Flores and mother of Brisenia, in the home during the attack was shot three times. She survived because she pretended to be dead. When the assailants left the home, Gonzalez called 911 emergency services and armed herself with her husband's handgun. While Gonzalez was on the phone, the assailants re-entered the home; Gonzalez fired the gun, wounding Bush. The killers then fled. Gonzalez identified two men, one white, the other Latino, and a white woman as the attackers. Gonzales said Bush, who is white, had murdered her daughter and husband.

An early exchange within the 911 call was recorded as follows:

Gonzalez: "They shot me and I pretended like I was dead. My daughter was crying. They shot her, too.
Operator: "Are they still there, the people who, that shot them?"
Gonzalez: "They're coming back in! They're coming back in!" (Gunfire.)[6]


Arriving at the death sentence was difficult, said Angie Thomas who sat on the jury. A picture of Brisenia presented during the trial was a significant factor in reaching the decision, she said. "A little girl, with bright red fingernails; she's wearing a white T-shirt and turquoise-colored pajama bottoms. She's on a love seat. It's a perfect, innocent picture until you realize that half of her face has been blown off."[7]

The child's mother, Gina Gonzalez, was shot three times during the crime but survived. "She testified that her daughter was shot point-blank as the girl pleaded for her life."[7]

Another Flores daughter, 12, was at her grandmother's home in Sahuarita, Arizona, during the attack.[8]


Shawna Forde[edit]

On February 14, 2011, Shawna Forde (born (1967-12-06) December 6, 1967 (age 48)[9]) was found guilty of all eight counts for which she was prosecuted:[10] including two counts of the first degree murder of Raul and Brisenia, one count of attempted first degree murder of Gina Gonzalez, two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of burglary, armed robbery, and aggravated robbery.[11]

Forde's lawyer, Eric Larsen, had argued that Forde was not in the house when Flores and his daughter were murdered, so she should not be found guilty. Prosecutors said Forde was with the two men who broke into the Flores' home, and Gonzalez testified she was there. Pima County Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay said, "She didn't put a gun to Brisenia's head ... but she was the one in charge. Because of that you must hold her accountable."[12]

Gonzalez said her family had been roused from their sleep at 5am by three people dressed in camouflage, claiming to be law enforcement officers looking for fugitives. She described the suspects as a white male whose face was painted black, a six-foot-tall Latino man and a "shorter fat woman."[12] Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said that Forde planned and ordered the murder of Raul Flores.

Although Gonzalez did not pick Forde out of a police lineup, police found Forde in possession of Gonzalez's jewelry, including her wedding ring, during a search after Forde's arrest. Police also presented text messages sent through Forde's phone and recorded conversations between Forde and the other suspects. The prosecutor said Forde had planned the crime for months in meetings out-of-state.[12]

"Even if she didn't pull the trigger … make no mistake about it. She's the one who planned the events. She's the one who recruited people to do this," Unklesbay said.

On February 22, 2011, a Tucson jury convicted Forde of both murders and sentenced her to death.[13] She is one of two women out of more than 120 inmates on Arizona's death row.[14]

Shawna Forde claims her prosecution was prompted by improper investigatory work.[15]

In describing herself in 2007 when she ran unsuccessfully, for a seat on the city council in Everett, Washington, Forde said she'd been a promoter of a grunge rock band; had worked as a youth counselor, aircraft factory worker, and as a cosmetologist.[16][17]

Forde had several run-ins with law enforcement prior to her arrest for the double murder. Court records show that she served time in juvenile lock-ups for repeated convictions involving theft, burglary, and prostitution. Forde had been married four times. In 1989, a male friend sought court protection from her, claiming that she had physically attacked him and threatened to hurt herself with a knife. In 2007, she was charged with theft. In January 2008, Forde accused members of a drug cartel of sexually assaulting and shooting her. Later, however, she suggested the culprits were criminal associates of her son. Forde's brother alleged that she fabricated the story, and authorities closed the case due to insufficient evidence.[18]

In 2007, Forde was involved in vigilante activities after she joined the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps which eventually threw her out.[19] In February 2007, Forde helped found and direct a splinter group, the Minutemen American Defense (MAD) militia, which questionably claimed "several thousand private members,"[20] although a former member claimed only fourteen remained following Forde's arrest for the Flores family murders. Shawna Forde was posting updates to the website of Jim Gilchrist's Minuteman Project organization which had her listed as their Border Operations Manager.

Jason Eugene Bush[edit]

Jason Eugene "Gunny" Bush (born LaGrande, Oregon (1974-08-11) August 11, 1974 (age 41)[21]) of Meadview, Arizona, was the Minutemen American Defense (MAD) militia's National Director of Operations. Bush was shot in the leg during the attack on the Flores family.

He was Forde's second in command. Bush has ties to the Aryan Nation. After his arrest in the murders of Raul and Brisenia Flores, he was charged in June 2009 with the 1997 murder of Hector Lopez Partida in Wenatchee, Washington based on DNA evidence.[22]

Bush was also charged with the September 1997 execution-style killing of his Aryan Nation associate, Jonathan Bumstead, also of Wenatchee, WA for supposedly committing the 'crime' of "being a 'race-traitor'". Also in 1997, Bush was imprisoned for car theft and for possession of a firearm, which was unlawful because of Bush's earlier felony conviction.[23][24]

After his release from prison in 2003, Bush moved to Sandpoint, Idaho, where he lived until 2007.[25] Bush is suspected in two additional killings that occurred in 1997. According to information provided to Washington state detectives, Bush is alleged to have shown up at the homes of acquaintances covered in blood and asked to be allowed to clean up, after he had "just finished taking care of some business." Detectives sought to find links to unresolved cases.

In April 2011, Bush was sentenced to the death penalty for the murders of Raul and Brisenia Flores, and in May 2011, received another 78 years for other crimes.[26]

Albert Gaxiola[edit]

Albert Robert Gaxiola (born (1967-02-09) February 9, 1967 (age 48)[27]), of Arivaca, Arizona, is believed to have provided intelligence about drug activities in the area to the M.A.D.[28] Gaxiola had been imprisoned on marijuana charges from 1992 to 2000.[23]

Gaxiola was found guilty of the murders and sentenced to life without parole plus 54 years.

Minutemen American Defense[edit]

Minutemen American Defense (MAD) is a militant nativist splinter group founded in the late 2000s by Forde after she left the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps. Various Forde family members and some of Forde's associates said that Forde began to rob presumed drug dealers in 2009 in hopes of raising funds to benefit her vigilante group.[29]

Forde claimed MAD had "about 13,000" members in a "coastal alliance."[29] However, Chuck Stonex,[by whom?] of Alamogordo, New Mexico, a former member who quit the organization after Forde's arrest, said that MAD had about 14 remaining members. He went on to say Forde termed its covert missions "Delta One Operations." Stonex said Forde intended to fund the purchase of a 40-acre (16 ha) property in southern Arizona, where she had intended to establish a base for her group's border operations.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  • Neiwert, David. And Hell Followed With Her: Crossing the Dark Side of the American Border (Nation Books, March 2013) p.  336.
  • Rosenthal, Lawrence, and Trost, Christine. Steep: The Precipitous Rise of the Tea Party University of California Press, Jul 15, 2012. p. 93.
  • Zeskind, Leonard. Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement From the Margins to the Mainstream.


  1. ^ a b Brisenia Flores at Find a Grave
  2. ^ "Arizona: Border Activist Sentenced to Death". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-22. 
  3. ^ FOX News Bill O’Reilly lied about Brisenia Flores - The Tucson Citizen
  4. ^ Vanderpool, Tim (January 14, 2010). "Murder in the Desert". Tucson Weekly. 
  5. ^ Medrano, Lourdes (February 23, 2011). "Arizona justice: Shawna Forde death sentence a rebuke to border vigilantes". Christian Science Monitor. 
  6. ^ "Survivor: I pretended to be dead | Seattle News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News | KOMO News | News". KOMO News. 2009-06-17. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  7. ^ a b Medrano, Lourdes (February 23, 2011). "Arizona justice: Shawna Forde death sentence a rebuke to border vigilantes". Christian Science Monitor. 
  8. ^ PMC (2008-07-28). "Alberto Gaxiola | Mexico Trucker Online". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  9. ^ "F_inmate". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Arizona vigilante found guilty of murdering Latino man, daughter". CNN. 2011-02-15. 
  12. ^ a b c "Border Vigilante on Trial for Murder: Minuteman Shawna Forde Found Guilty in Home Invasion Killings". ABC. 2011-02-22. 
  13. ^ "Arizona jury sentences border activist to death". 2011-02-22. Retrieved 2011-02-22. 
  14. ^ Arizona Department of Corrections Death Row Demographics - Retrieved February 23, 2011.
  15. ^ Justice for Shawna Forde website - February 23, 2011.
  16. ^ North, Scott (2009-02-22). "Local news: Trouble finds Shawna Forde". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  17. ^ "The Nativists | Southern Poverty Law Center". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  18. ^ Anderson, Rick (2007-05-16). "Lethally Blonde – An expose of Shawna Forde". Seattle: Immigration Clearinghouse. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  19. ^ Patrick Oppmann (2009-06-23). "Rogue Minutemen leader held in fatal home invasion". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  20. ^ "Death Penalty Sought Against Border Vigilante Leaders for Alleged Murders". 8 September 2009. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  21. ^ "B_inmate". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  22. ^ Clarridge, Christine (2009-06-17). "Local News | Former Everett woman's arrest rekindles interest in other cases | Seattle Times Newspaper". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^ North, Scott (2009-06-18). " - Local news: Murder suspect not the military veteran he claims to be". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  25. ^ "Local News | Anti-immigration advocate held in '97 slaying | Seattle Times Newspaper". 2009-06-16. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  26. ^ Smith, Kim. "Bush, on possible restitution: 'Get real! I'm going to death row'". Arizona Daily Star. 
  27. ^ "G_inmate". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  28. ^ North, Scott (2009-06-13). "Local news: Activist Shawna Forde charged in double slaying". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  29. ^ a b Hing, Julianne (15 Feb 2011). "Shawna Forde Speaks". Colorlines News (Tucson). Retrieved 26 May 2014. 

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