The FBI arrested on Saturday the head of a right-wing militia that had been detaining migrant families at gunpoint. Law enforcement officers arrested Larry Mitchell Hopkins, who went by the alias Johnny Horton Jr., in New Mexico on charges of firearms possession by a felon. Hopkins had previously been arrested in 2006 on charges of impersonating an officer and for felony firearm possession.
“This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families,” the New Mexico attorney general, Hector Balderas, said in a statement. “Today’s arrest by the F.B.I. indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.” Although the charge isn’t particularly serious, it could open the door to other investigations and sends a clear message regarding the type of vigilante justice the group has been carrying out along the border.
The arrest came mere days after it was reported that the United Constitutional Patriots were publishing videos on social media showing how they were illegally detaining migrant families. On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union had denounced the actions of the militia and called for authorities to investigate. “We cannot allow racist and armed vigilantes to kidnap and detain people seeking asylum,” two ACLU lawyers wrote in a letter to government officials.
In the videos that had been published online, the militia members spoke in favor of a border wall and referred to the arrival of migrants as an “invasion,” echoing language used by President Donald Trump. Some members of the group had set up camp near the border since November and claim they’ve detained more than 3,000 migrants since then.