A police officer escorts a man from a home in Gilbert, Ariz., where a shooting… (Matt York / Associated Press )
Five people were shot to death, including a toddler, at a house in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert on Wednesday, and a white supremacist border militiaman apparently was among them.
Authorities have not released the victims' identities, but the private militia group U.S. Border Guard reported that one of the dead was Jason "J.T." Ready, its founder. Members of the organization say they arm themselves and patrol the border with Mexico to try to combat "narco-terrorists." Ready also advocated putting a minefield on the border.
"The U.S. Border Guard is extremely saddened by the untimely loss of our founder, J.T. Ready, and the other souls lost in such a senseless act of violence.... You will be fiercely missed," the militia said on its website.
Police initially described the incident as a murder-suicide but later backed away from that characterization. Sgt. Bill Balafas said Gilbert police had responded to reports of a domestic dispute and shots fired. When officers arrived, he said, they found four bodies and a mortally wounded young girl. The child died later at a local hospital, he said.
Balafas said two handguns and a shotgun were found inside the home, and investigators were interviewing a witness. He refused to elaborate. The Arizona Republic reported that someone had survived the shootings.
Ready had links to the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, Americans First and the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center's website, and he advocated using deadly force to stop illegal immigration.
"I firmly believe in having a minefield across the border," he says in one video. "This is 100% effective."
The Republic, citing anonymous sources, reported that Ready was among the dead. The newspaper said the others included another man, two women and a 1- or 2-year-old girl.
The Associated Press reported a hazmat team was at the house Wednesday night to deal with a potentially dangerous liquid found in 55-gallon drums in the backyard.
About three hours after the shooting, the Associated Press reported, a man walked up and said, "I have a daughter who lives in that house." Police took him aside, and bystanders heard a cry of anguish. Then the weeping man left with officers.
Ready had unsuccessfully run for public office several times, usually as a Republican. This year, he was trying to run for Pinal County sheriff as a Democrat. The county Democratic Party disavowed him and urged members not to sign petitions to get him on the ballot.