The FBI on Saturday arrested the leader of the heavily-armed vigilante group that had illegally detained over 300 migrants trying to cross the border from Mexico and into New Mexico.
Larry Hopkins (AKA Johnny Horton Jr., Scott Alan Curtiss, and code name “Striker”) is the leader of the United Constitutional Patriots (UCP), a group that has been accused of impersonating law enforcement at the border. He was arrested in Oregon in 2006 on suspicion of impersonating law enforcement and for being a felon in possession of firearms.
According to the FBI, Hopkins was once again charged this weekend with being a felon possessing firearms and ammunition. His arrest comes two days after New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called for an investigation into the group’s activities and Attorney General Hector Balderas made clear that the the group ought “not attempt to exercise authority reserved for law enforcement.”
Hopkins previously told a local ABC affiliate that the group doesn’t “want any Rambos” and that its members are armed for their own protection.
Hopkins is due in U.S. District Court in Las Cruces, New Mexico on Monday.
Hopkins, listed as 70 years old in his arrest record, is known as the “national commander” of UCP. He was arrested in Sunland Park, New Mexico, where UCP has about a handful of members camping out, Reuters reported. UCP describes itself as a group of “patriots” helping U.S. Border Patrol.
On Friday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Office of Border Patrol, said it did not “endorse or condone” the group’s activities.
#CBP does not endorse or condone private groups or organizations that take enforcement matters into their own hands. Interference by civilians in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences for all parties involved.
— CBP (@CBP) April 19, 2019
“Interference by civilians in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences for all parties involved,” the agency added.
UCP is one of several militia groups operating at the border. While CBP has said that it does not condone private groups interfering with law enforcement, a 2016 Mother Jones investigation found that there was cooperation between the two sides.
UCP has posted videos of its activities previously: Footage posted onto Facebook shows members of the group armed and wearing camouflage, handing over the migrants they detained to CBP.
Here we can see two of the armed civilian militia. pic.twitter.com/CuAnNtEqeX
— 🥚 Ei of Soros (@rockyhorrorrr) April 18, 2019
Jim Benvie, a UCP spokesman, said he was certain Hopkins would be “cleared” on all charges. He claimed the group had detained at least 5,600 migrants in two months, adding that the group had the support of local police and Border Patrol.
UCP has equated its decision to detain migrants to a “verbal citizen’s arrest,” failing to note that its members are often heavily armed and wearing full camouflage in the desert when they approach the migrants, who often do not speak English. The group claims it does not point weapons at the migrants it detains, but asks them to sit down on the ground as it coordinates with CBP.
The group has pledged to remain active until President Donald Trump succeeds in building a border wall at the U.S. southern border with Mexico.
Trump’s pledge to build a border wall — a key promise from his campaign — has plagued the president since his inauguration. Trump has repeatedly failed to persuade Congress to fund it in its entirety and late last year partially shut down the government over the matter.
In his efforts to get funding, the president has condemned Central American asylum seekers fleeing violence and poverty as criminals, claiming their arrival at the border constitutes a national security crisis.
The president has also cut aid to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala in response to that supposed “crisis.” He expanded a program that has separated families at the border, has threatened to shut down the border, and has said he will impose tariffs on Mexican automotive imports.