Suit: FBI failed to stop Arivaca deaths

Victim says informant warned agency of plan
2012-06-01T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T17:18:12Z Suit: FBI failed to stop Arivaca deathsTim Steller Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 01, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The FBI should have prevented a 2009 home invasion in Arivaca that left a man and his 9-year-old daughter dead, the surviving victim alleges in a lawsuit against the federal government.

Convicted murderer Shawna Forde asked an FBI informant in Colorado to participate in the attack two weeks before it happened and even drew a map of the site, survivor Gina Gonzalez says in the lawsuit.

The informant passed the map on to his FBI handler in Colorado, and the agent there passed it on to the FBI office in Phoenix, but that office lost the map, the suit says.

By its own rules, FBI agents were required to tell local law enforcement in Southern Arizona of the planned crime, the suit says. But the FBI didn't intervene.

Plaintiff Gonzalez was shot twice in the May 30, 2009, attack but survived. Her husband and daughter were killed.

Her lawsuit sheds some new light on a part of the notorious attack that was the subject of testimony in Forde's 2011 trial: the meeting in Colorado that may have been the best opportunity to stop Forde's plan.

The lawsuit describes Forde's unwitting encounter with the FBI this way:

In April 2009, a Colorado man named Ronald Wedow received a call from Forde. Wedow passed the information to his friend Robert Copley, whom Wedow knew to have contacts in the FBI, and Copley spoke with Forde several times by phone.

Forde set up a May meeting with Copley and Wedow, and Copley informed FBI agent Chris Anderson of the meeting. Anderson asked Copley to attend the meeting and report back.

On May 15, Copley, Wedow, Forde and others met at a truck stop in Aurora, Colo. "At the meeting, Shawna Forde described her plan to invade a home in Arivaca, Arizona for the purpose of 'securing' it, and stealing the drugs, weapons and money Shawna Forde suspected were being stored there," the suit says.

After the meeting, Copley told the FBI agent, Anderson, of Forde's plan and provided him with the map Forde had drawn of the targeted area, the suit says. Anderson provided the map to the Phoenix FBI office, but they lost it, the suit alleges.

An FBI spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Under FBI rules, Anderson was required to go further and tell the Pima County Sheriff's Department, at least in a limited way, the threat that Forde posed, the lawsuit says.

Such a disclosure could have prevented the murders, because a few days before the home invasion, Forde and a man who may have been one of her accomplices had a chance encounter with a Pima County deputy in Arivaca.

Forde simply told the deputy they were doing Minuteman-style border patrols, and they parted ways.

On the night of May 30, Forde and her accomplices, Jason Bush and Albert Gaxiola, went to the door of Gonzalez's house and pounded it on it, pretending to be Border Patrol agents. After pushing their way in, Bush shot and killed Gonzalez's husband, Raul Flores, and their daughter Brisenia.

Forde said she intended to steal money, drugs and weapons from the house and use them to further her border-watch group, Minutemen American Defense.

All three were convicted of the murders last year. Forde and Bush were sentenced to death. Gaxiola was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or tsteller@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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