As many of us suspected, the video footage purportedly showing a maverick Minuteman shooting a border crosser -- along with a second video showing the same gunman taking potshots at another group of crossers -- have turned out to be fakes, at least according to the men who made them:
- One Minuteman leader accused a rival Minuteman leader of videotaping the shooting of an illegal immigrant, but sheriff's deputies investigating the report Saturday said the video was fake, as did the maker of the video.
Robert "Little Dog" Crooks, leader of the Campo Minutemen, said he and his friends did shoot the video and sheriff's deputies came out to see what happened, but they know him well.
"Who in their right mind is going to shoot a smuggler, videotape it, then post it to YouTube?" Crooks said.
The video came to the attention of authorities after Jeff Schwilk, founder of the San Diego Minutemen, who Crooks said is his rival, e-mailed another border activist, warning about the Crooks video, according to a local newspaper.
The video, which is shot from the perspective of a gun scope, was probably staged, said Sgt. Mike Radovich of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department Campo station.
The video shows Minutemen targeting an illegal immigrant crossing the border. There's the sound of a gunshot, the immigrant ducks or is shot, and then the video fades out to a grave site, Radovich said.
Crooks gave a similar description of his video. He said he and his friends made the video when the Minutemen were bored discussing President George W. Bush's federal immigration reform bill, which the group calls the Amnesty Bill, and which was eventually turned down by Congress.
"The Amnesty Bill was up in the air, and we said if it goes through it'd bury America," Crooks said. "So we buried America."
The group constructed the fake grave site next to Crooks' trailer, which is near the border fence in Campo, he said. Radovich said he saw the fake grave site during his investigation of the video.
"We're old men and we're bored," Crooks said.
It was all too obvious the ending of the second video, with the grave and marker, was faked, while the other footage looked to be potentially real, but in the end unlikely. (The shooting video, which has since been removed by YouTube, was especially unlikely, as he reels off two shots but the camera -- ostensibly mounted on his scope -- shows no indication of a recoil.)
What was clearly not faked was the narrator's chilling lacking of humanity -- the viciousness with which he waited for the right moment to get off a round. What was clearly real was his wish that he could shoot one of these border crossers, and his belief moreover that we ought to be doing that. In the first video, which is still available, he mutters, after firing off a round and yelling obscenities at the ostensible crossers: "And that's how you get rid of Mexicans!"
Indeed, according to the SPLC's first report on this, Crooks actually e-mailed the video to "several other prominent nativist leaders, including Jim Gilchrist, co-founder of the original Minuteman Project."
- In the E-mail, Crooks suggests that Gilchrist is a weakling who can “Talk the Talk” but not “Walk the Walk.”
“This video shows how to keep a ‘Home Depot’ parking lot empty,” Crooks (right) wrote in his sneering July 26 E-mail, titled “Homeland Defence.” Gilchrist, whose organization had earlier provided Crooks’ group with supplies, responded by banning Crooks from contact with his own group.
There's no doubt that while the video was faked, what's very real is the belief of these "Minutemen" that the way to solve the problem is to start taking shots at Mexicans.
Crooks is hardly alone in that belief among the ranks of the border watchers. In fact, it's something that floats up in interviews all the time. Like the two Minutemen in Arizona:
- "It should be legal to kill illegals," said Carl, a 69-year old retired Special Forces veteran who fought in Vietnam and now lives out West. "Just shoot 'em on sight. That's my immigration policy recommendation. You break into my country, you die."
"I agree completely," Michael said. "You get up there with a rifle and start shooting four or five of them a week, the other four or five thousand behind them are going to think twice about crossing that line."
Or the Minuteman on patrol with Chris Simcox back in 2004:
- No, we ought to be able to shoot the Mexicans on sight, and that would end the problem. After two or three Mexicxans are shot, they'll stop crossing the border and they'll take their cows home, too.
Or the fellows who invented that crude video game in which the object is to gun down border crossers.
It's kind of a common theme. When immigrants are being regularly portrayed as an "invading army" with whom we are now at war, then of course this is going to one of the logical outcomes.
These kinds of haters, like most pseudo-fascists, like to talk big but they never can back it up -- and that, as far as it goes, is a good thing. They're frauds, and we're frankly glad of that.
But the fear and ugliness they foment is all too real. And someday, it's going to have real consequences -- if it hasn't already.