WASHINGTON -- An Arizona anti-illegal immigration activist was convicted on Monday of killing two Latinos during a 2009 raid: nine-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul Flores. The killer, Shawna Forde, is a member of the Minutemen, which patrols the southern border vigilante-style to detect illegal entry into the country.
Although the shootings were never classified as a hate crime, Latino groups argue the murders reflect growing anti-immigrant sentiment within the United States. The details are chilling: Forde and two others entered the Flores home, allegedly looking for a million-dollar drug stash that never materialized, and shot both of Brisenia Flores' parents before turning the gun on the child.
As her mother played dead, Brisenia Flores said, "Please don't shoot me," before being shot twice in the head.
A jury convicted Forde of planning and executing the raid that led to the deaths of Raul and Brisenia Flores, and of the attempted murder of Gina Gonzales, the child's mother (she survived the attack). Forde was also convicted on two counts of aggravated assault and counts of burglary, armed robbery and aggravated robbery.
The jury will announce Forde's sentence on Thursday; her alleged accomplices, Albert Robert Gaxiola and Jason Eugene Bush, still await trial.
Joaquin Guerra, campaign director for Latino activism group Presente.org, told HuffPost the conviction is "justice for a little girl whose death was ignored by the mainstream media." The case largely escaped the notice of major news outlets until a few weeks ago, when a number of national news sources covered Forde's trial.
Few politicians spoke out against the murders, which occurred in a state that later passed the hotly-contested SB1070 immigration law and is now considering a bill that would deny citizenship to children born to undocumented immigrants.
Latinos organized to bring attention to the Flores killings, including a campaign by Presente.org to shed light on the case.
"What we have shown is that Latinos are watching, and if people and parties want the Latino vote, they will have to speak out against things like this," Guerra said. "We hope her death wasn't in vain and that it serves as an example of what can happen when the types of conditions that are in Arizona are allowed to go unchecked and are legitimated as serious policy issues."