For most of Wednesday morning and into the early afternoon, a longtime resident in northwest Gilbert’s Lago Estancia neighborhood noticed something unsettling with her German Shepherd mix. The dog sat at the front door, and growled.
“She must’ve sensed something was wrong, or something bad was happening,” the resident said.
It was about 1 p.m., while sitting in her backyard, when the woman heard three “pop-pop-pops” — ultimately, gunshots — signalling what police described as a “very violent” situation inside a home at 530 W. Tumbleweed, near Cooper and Warner roads.
The incident is believed to be the deadliest shooting in town history, stemming from what police are calling a domestic dispute that ended with East Valley political figure J.T. Ready — the former leader of a white supremacist neo-Nazi group and outspoken vigilante against illegal immigration — killing four people before shooting himself.
The neighbor, who didn’t want to provide her name, recalled what she heard: “At first, it didn’t sound like your normal gunshots. I thought it was just construction noise. Growing up in a military family, it didn’t sound like typical gunshots. After checking on (my husband) in the darkroom, I looked outside and there were a ‘zillion’ police cars all over the place.”
After police arrived on the scene, officers discovered five people shot at the residence:
• Jason Todd Ready, 39
• Lisa Lynn Mederos, 47 (Ready’s girlfriend)
• Amber Nieve Mederos, 23 (Lisa Mederos’ daughter)
• Jim Franklin Hiott, 24 (Amber Mederos’ fiancé; member of the South Carolina National Guard who had served in Afghanistan)
• Lily Lynn Mederos, 15 months (Amber’s daughter)
Police have yet to determine a motive, but a family friend of the Mederoses said that Lisa Mederos, who owned the house, wanted to break up with Ready because of his continued violent tendencies. Police also said they had responded to the Mederos’ home five times prior, with one of those being related to a domestic dispute.
A vigilante against illegal immigration and most recently the head of the U.S. Border Guard — an armed militia that patrols the desert of Pinal County searching for illegal immigrants smuggling drugs or humans — Ready had announced his intent to run for Pinal County Sheriff. He previously ran for a Mesa City Council seat in 2006.
As neighbors were interviewed on the Valley’s television news stations throughout the evening, they voiced suspicion of groups of men going in and out of the house dressed in camouflage gear carrying cases and guns.
Ready’s websites reported he had been assassinated by a Mexican drug cartel, but police said on Wednesday they believe he was the shooter and that there are no outstanding suspects from the incident.
Ready, a former Marine, had been working at a nearby AutoZone store in Gilbert.
At least one Valley organization didn’t mince words, portraying Ready as a “hate monger.”
A statement issued by the Arizona office of the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday said: “J.T. Ready subscribed to an ideology that embraces hate and violence. It is a culture which sees violence as a solution to social, political and even personal problems. ADL has been aware of his involvement and leadership in white supremacist groups and activities for over a decade, and while to our knowledge he had no previous personal record of domestic violence, ADL has tracked many incidents of white supremacist violence against women in recent years, including domestic violence.”
Heather Morton, one of Amber Mederos’ friends, said Ready was cruel and controlling, and that Amber moved out a few months ago with her daughter and fiance.
Morton said Ready would say that Amber’s baby was 50 percent ugly, because Lily was half Hispanic.
A group of Amber’s friends shared their thoughts and information at the Wendy’s restaurant in Gilbert where Amber had worked for four years (she had interviewed to be the restaurant’s manager the night before she was killed).
She often hung out with friends, and her sister, Brittany, who also worked at the restaurant.
They described Amber as an easygoing, caring person who took care of her mother after Lisa Mederos was hit by a car about two years ago and nearly died.
Mike Palos, a friend of Amber’s who said he worked with her at Wendy’s for two years, had stopped by the Mederos’ house in the once-again quiet neighborhood on Thursday. He said that Amber was a sweet person, someone you’d always remember.
On her Facebook page, Amber Mederos posted a cryptic message at 11:39 p.m. Tuesday — the night before she was killed. “Time to get the drama out of my life and make a better life for me, my daughter and my love,” she said.
Shorter status updates on her Facebook page earlier in the week said, “Scared.” “Worried.” “Praying.”
Harry Hughes, a member of the National Socialist Movement who also took part in armed border patrols, expressed shock at Wednesday’s tragedy.
“I think this is horrible,” he said. “I want everyone to know J.T. Ready was the last person on earth I’d figure to have done anything to hurt a child. It really caught me off guard. Despite all the rhetoric and the stuff we’re going to hear about him being the evil Nazi, he was a good man.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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