Murders of Raul and Brisenia Flores

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Murders of Raul and Brisenia Flores
Junior and Brisenia Flores.jpg
Raul and Brisenia Flores
Location 36000 block, Mesquite Road
Arivaca, Arizona
Date 30 May 2009
5 a.m. (UTC-7)
Attack type
Armed robbery
Home invasion
Premeditated murder
Weapons Firearm
Deaths 2[1]
Non-fatal injuries
2 (including one attacker)
Perpetrators Jason Eugene Bush
Shawna Forde
Albert Gaxiola

On May 30, 2009, 29-year-old Raul Flores, Jr., and his daughter, 9-year-old Brisenia Ylianna Flores, were murdered at their home in Arivaca, Arizona, during a robbery by Shawna Forde, Jason Eugene Bush, and Albert Gaxiola. Gina Gonzalez, the victims' wife and mother, was wounded but survived the attack after exchanging gunfire with the intruders, wounding Bush. In 2011, all three assailants were convicted of murder. Forde and Bush were sentenced to death, while Gaxiola was sentenced to life in prison without parole.


Forde and her accomplices gained entry to the Flores home by claiming they were officials looking for fugitives. 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 inexpensive jewelry and fatally shot 29-year-old Raul Flores, Jr., and his daughter, nine-year-old Brisenia Ylianna Flores.[1][2]

Gina Marie Gonzalez, the 31-year-old wife of Raul Flores and the mother of Brisenia, was in the home during the attack and was shot three times.[3] 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, and Gonzalez exchanged fire with the attackers, wounding Bush in the leg. The killers then fled. Gonzalez identified two men—one white, the other Mexican—and a white woman as the attackers. Gonzales identified the white man (Bush) as the one who had murdered her daughter and her 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!


Brisenia was a third-grade student at the Sopori Elementary School in Amado, Arizona, at the time of her death.[5] Another of the Flores's daughters, a 12-year-old, was at her grandmother's home in Sahuarita, Arizona, during the attack.[6]


Arriving at a death sentence for Forde was difficult, according to juror Angie Thomas. 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]

Gina testified that her daughter was shot point-blank as the girl pleaded for her life."[7]

Shawna Forde, Jason Eugene Bush, and Albert Gaxiola were all convicted of the murders.[8] Forde and Bush were sentenced to death, while Gaxiola was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole plus 54 years.


Jason Eugene Bush[edit]

Jason Eugene "Gunny" Bush (born LaGrande, Oregon (1974-08-11) August 11, 1974 (age 44)[9]) 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. Bush had been charged with the September 1997 execution-style killing of his Aryan Nation associate, Jonathan Bumstead, 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.[10][11]

After his release from prison in 2003, Bush moved to Sandpoint, Idaho, where he lived until 2007.[12] 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.

Bush, who was Forde's second in command, had ties to the Aryan Nations, a white supremacist organization. After his arrest in the murders of Raul and Brisenia Flores, Bush was charged in June 2009 with the 1997 murder of Hector Lopez Partida in Wenatchee, Washington based on DNA evidence.[13] In April 2011, Bush was sentenced to death, and in May 2011, received another 78 years for other crimes.[14] Bush's appeal of his death sentence was rejected in 2018.

Shawna Forde[edit]

Shawna Forde was born (1967-12-06) December 6, 1967 (age 50).[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.

On February 14, 2011, she was found guilty of all eight counts for which she was prosecuted:[21] 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.[22] Forde's lawyer, Eric Larsen, had said 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."[23]

Gonzalez said her family had been roused from their sleep at 5 a.m. 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 Mexican man" and a "shorter fat woman."[23] 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.[23] "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.[24] She is one of three women out of more than 120 inmates on Arizona's death row.[25] Forde said that her prosecution was prompted by improper investigatory work.[26]

Albert Gaxiola[edit]

Albert Robert Gaxiola (born (1967-02-09) February 9, 1967 (age 51)[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.[10] Gaxiola was found guilty of the murders and sentenced to life without parole plus 54 years.[29][30]

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.[31]

Forde said MAD had "about 13,000" members in a "coastal alliance."[31] However, Chuck Stonex, a former member who quit the organization after Forde's arrest, said that MAD had about 14 remaining members. He also said that 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.[32]

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. ^ Medrano, Lourdes (February 23, 2011). "Arizona justice: Shawna Forde death sentence a rebuke to border vigilantes". Christian Science Monitor. 
  3. ^ FOX News Bill O’Reilly lied about Brisenia Flores - The Tucson Citizen
  4. ^ "Survivor: I pretended to be dead | Seattle News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News | KOMO News | News". KOMO News. 2009-06-17. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  5. ^ Vanderpool, Tim (January 14, 2010). "Murder in the Desert". Tucson Weekly. 
  6. ^ PMC (2008-07-28). "Alberto Gaxiola | Mexico Trucker Online". 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. ^ "Arizona: Border Activist Sentenced to Death". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-02-22. 
  9. ^ "B_inmate". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  10. ^ a b[dead link]
  11. ^ North, Scott (2009-06-18). " - Local news: Murder suspect not the military veteran he claims to be". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  12. ^ "Local News | Anti-immigration advocate held in '97 slaying | Seattle Times Newspaper". 2009-06-16. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  13. ^ Clarridge, Christine (2009-06-17). "Local News | Former Everett woman's arrest rekindles interest in other cases | Seattle Times Newspaper". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  14. ^ Smith, Kim. "Bush, on possible restitution: 'Get real! I'm going to death row'". Arizona Daily Star. 
  15. ^ "F_inmate". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  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. ^ Hing, Julianne (14 February 2011). "Minuteman Vigilante Shawna Forde Convicted for Brisenia Flores' Murder". ColorLines. Retrieved 8 August 2016. 
  22. ^ "Arizona vigilante found guilty of murdering Latino man, daughter". CNN. 2011-02-15. 
  23. ^ a b c "Border Vigilante on Trial for Murder: Minuteman Shawna Forde Found Guilty in Home Invasion Killings". ABC. 2011-02-22. 
  24. ^ "Arizona jury sentences border activist to death". 2011-02-22. Retrieved 2011-02-22. 
  25. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-05-11. Retrieved 2013-05-08.  Arizona Department of Corrections Death Row Demographics - Retrieved February 23, 2011.
  26. ^ Justice for Shawna Forde website - February 23, 2011.
  27. ^ "G_inmate". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  28. ^ North, Scott (2009-06-13). "Local news: Activist Shawna Forde charged in double slaying". Archived from the original on 2009-06-18. Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  29. ^ Smith, Kim (15 July 2011). "3rd defendant in Arivaca double-murder case avoids death row". Retrieved 8 August 2016.  (subscription required)
  30. ^ Grijalva, Barbara (15 August 2011). "Third defendant gets life in deaths of man, 9-year-old daughter". KOLD via KSLA. Retrieved 8 August 2016. TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - He avoided the death penalty, but Albert Gaxiola will spend his life in prison for a deadly home invasion. 
  31. ^ a b Hing, Julianne (15 Feb 2011). "Shawna Forde Speaks". Colorlines News. Tucson. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  32. ^ Star, Kim Smith Arizona Daily. "Witness links Forde to alleged gunman in Arivaca killings". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 2016-03-16. 

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