[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]
Border militiaman K.C. Massey III was slightly apologetic about detaining three border-crossing immigrants during one of his outfit’s vigilante patrols awhile back—handcuffing the men behind their backs with zip ties—along the Rio Grande in southern Texas.
“Sorry we had to ‘Detain’ them,” Massey, one of the leaders of the militiamen that began gathering several weeks ago in Texas, wrote in a Facebook comment after video of the detentions was posted online. “[B]ut they were wore out and just fell down and gave up while the other 7-8 ran like gazelles!”
As the post explained, the militiamen detained the people—described as Honduran, Guatemalan, and Mexican—after they encountered a group of about 11 border crossers, most of whom took off through the brush. The three men they kept were “ziptied, debriefed, and given water,” and U.S. Border Patrol officers eventually arrived and took them away.
“WE DO NOT AIM TO DETAIN, we would much rather send them back into the river into Mexico and dissuade them and the cartel from crossing on the property we patrol,” the post explained. “All encounters were conducted in a humanitarian, professional fashion. Stay vigilant. Thank you for your support.”
But behind the guise of humanitarian treatment was a not-so-subtle smirking contempt. “One of the guys pissed himself!” remarked Massey. Another chimed in, “Dude pissed himself bad.”
Welcome to Camp LoneStar, a border militia outpost on the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas where antigovernment “Patriots,” heavily armed and hunting for immigrants, have seemingly taken the law into their own hands in recent weeks and made residents near their operation increasingly fearful and resentful.
The camp, a makeshift encampment, lies on the 21-acre property of a longtime Brownsville-area rancher named Cuban “Rusty” Monsees. Most of the participants pitch tents or park their vehicles there, then go out on patrols at nighttime or afoot in groups, always loaded with a variety of weapon. During the day, they use all-terrain vehicles to prowl along the border fence line or drive to overlooks along the Rio Grande, where they can catch people swimming across the river.
Indeed–just as the detention video post described–another video, posted by Massey on his Facebook page, showed the militiamen forcing border crossers who swam to the American side of the river to retrieve their belongings and swim back to the Mexico side. The video has no audio, but similar previous video from Camp LoneStar included the verbal harassment the border watchers were shouting at the swimmers.
Since it began, there has been a rotating cast of characters at the encampment. Initially, the self-described “commanding officer” at Camp LoneStar was an Arizona militiaman named Joe O’Shaugnessy, but he was eventually replaced by the more strident K.C. Massey.
Nearly all of the reporting on supposed militia activity on the Mexico border in Texas has emanated from the Monsees property, it seems. That includes early reporting from radio host Pete Santilli, as well as stories from the San Antonio Express-News and from Reuters, whose report included a detailed video profile. More recently, reporters from the Texas Observer spent time at the camp and came away with a scathing profile of Massey and his border watchmen.
The portrait of Camp LoneStar that has emerged in recent weeks is not pretty, depicting a camp awash in paranoia and testosterone, with feuds among participants and conspiracy theories flitting about like moths.
Massey and his fellow border watchers––including Monsees—are particularly paranoid about the Mexican drug cartels they claim are responsible for most of the human trafficking they observe—a claim that remains unsubstantiated. They insist on maintaining their anonymity out of fear of retaliation from the cartels; Massey told the Observer reporters that even disclosing how many men were there could endanger them.
“We don’t want cartel operatives knowing about our operation,” he explained. “Let’s just say if there were 10 of us, then the cartel would send 20 hit men to take us out.”
Likewise, Monsees explained to Stewart Rhodes of the Oath Keepers in a phone interview that he was “No. 5” on the cartels’ hit list, a dubious story he has repeated to most of the “Patriots” in the camp. Monsees and his campers also have been promoting the claim that the Border Patrol has been arresting a large number of Muslims—including terrorists on the Most Wanted List—and then keeping the matter hushed up. This story has gained wide circulation among Tea Party members nationally, though more recently concerned has turned to paranoid worries that members of the ISIS have appeared at the southern border.
Indeed, one of the former participants at the camp—a “Patriot” named Rob Chupp, an Indiana man who was a participant in one of Santilli’s multiple interviews in weeks ago—said that he and others decided to leave the camp when it became clear that the overseers were not particular about whether or not felons could participate in the camp, nor whether illegal weapons might be in use there. It was a Camp LoneStar participant, John Frederick Forrester, who drew gunfire from a Border Patrol officer in pursuit of a fugitive recently. Forrester, in fact, is a convicted felon.
Chupp, who was involved in organizing an ill-fated “Patriot” border-crossing, said he and a number of other border watchers pulled out because of concerns about the legality of the operation.
“After the whole shooting thing, we figured out that some of them were felons,” Chupp told Hatewatch, “We asked several of the guys to leave that we found out were felons. Because yeah, we have a Second Amendment to protect your right to bear arms, but we are also a nation of laws, and there’s a reason we don’t let felons own guns. … And it came to be a problem, and it was loud, and ‘We don’t care what the gun laws are,’ and ‘If we want to have this weapon even if it’s illegal, we’re gonna have it.’ It just turned south, and we pulled out.”
Their neighbors are concerned too. Maria Cordero, an ACLU attorney whose home is just down the road from Monsees’ property, told The Observer that everyone in the neighborhood is fearful about the men in camouflage patrolling near their homes. “We don’t know who they are,” Cordero said. “Do they have criminal records? People are afraid, but more than that they are confused.”
Cordero’s husband described a neighborhood full of fearful families, unable to distinguish between the cartels, the militiamen, and real law enforcement.
“We don’t know who these people are. They’re carrying high-powered weapons. It makes us feel less safe, not more safe to have them here,” he said. “I just hope they leave soon.”