Sunland Park, NM – The leader of a militia group that has been intercepting illegal immigrant families on the U.S. – Mexico border in New Mexico was arrested by federal authorities on Saturday.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents arrested 69-year-old Larry Mitchell Hopkins – who also goes by Johnny Horton Jr. and Scott Alan Curtiss – on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
Hopkins is the leader of the United Constitutional Patriots, a militia group that has been accused of detaining illegal border crossers at gunpoint and then turning those people over to authorities.
During the week prior to his arrest, the United Constitutional Patriots were credited with detaining more than 200 illegal aliens who had crossed the border seeking asylum near Sunland Park, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
Such citizens arrests would only be legal for felony suspects, but unlawfully crossing the border is a misdemeanor.
The group is accused of having targeted illegal immigrant families which has angered pro-immigration activists.
“We are actively working with @NewMexicoAOG as well as local and state police. Menacing or threatening migrant families and asylum-seekers is absolutely unacceptable and must cease,” New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham tweeted the day before Hopkins was arrested.
But the militia leader was not taken into custody for the group’s recent activities, which many find objectionable, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
Hopkins was arrested on weapons charges because his prior felony convictions prohibit him from having a gun.
It wasn't his first such arrest.
According to an arrest report from the Klamath County, Oregon Sheriff’s Office, Hopkins was also arrested for being a felon in possession of a weapon in November of 2006.
On that occasion, he was impersonating a police officer in a law enforcement type uniform and wearing a badge that said “special agent.”
Hopkins also wore medals pinned to his shirt and carried a credentials case that had another badge that said Fugitive Recovery Agent, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
The police report said Hopkins was spotted showing off a firearm to children in the parking lot of a gas station in Klamath County, Washington.
A reserve deputy who witnessed the scene said Hopkins claimed to work “directly under George Bush” and was “bragging about going on drug stings in Louisiana and stating that he worked for the government.”
Other witnesses told police that Hopkins had claimed to be both a police officer and a bounty hunter, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
Court records showed that Hopkins pleaded guilty to giving “the impression to others that I was a peace officer” and carrying a prohibited firearm as a felon.
In 2011, Hopkins found himself back in court, this time over failure to pay child support, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
He claimed he had never met the child in question and that he had been told the child died while he was still behind bars.
Hopkins argued at his sentencing that he’d had a terrible upbringing by an “extremely abusive” stepfather who had pulled him out of school to work in his logging business at age 13.
He said he was the butt of the logging camp’s jokes until he angered his uncle and was thrown out, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.
At age 17, Hopkins was given the option by a judge to enlist in the military or go to a home for neglected children, so he joined up and served from 1967 through 1970 in Vietnam.
“This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families,” New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said, according to The New York Times. “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.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has denounced the United Constitutional Patriots and said their detaining of illegal immigrants was tantamount to kidnapping by “racist and armed vigilantes.”