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The FBI has arrested the leader of the right-wing armed militia that’s been detaining migrants near the New Mexico border. He’s expected in federal court Monday on charges of being a felon in possession of a gun.
Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, who heads the United Constitutional Patriots militia, was taken into custody Saturday near the city of Sunland Park, where the group had detained 300 migrants last week, according to the New Mexico attorney general. A series of Facebook videos published last week showed members of Hopkins’ group holding migrants, including many children, at gunpoint and forcing them to huddle on the ground at night before turning them over to Customs and Border Protection.
“This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families,” said Attorney General Hector Balderas in a statement. “Today’s arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not vigilantes.”
After the United Constitutional Patriots' actions came to light last week, the ACLU immediately called on law enforcement to investigate.
Back in 2006, the Klamath County Sheriff’s Department in Oregon arrested Hopkins on charges of impersonating a police officer and being a felon in possession of a firearm. At the time, Hopkins was caught wearing a uniform and pretending to be a law enforcement officer while showing his firearms to a group of children at a gas station, according to an incident report cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). He did not serve a sentence for those charges, the SPLC found.
In the decades prior to that arrest, Hopkins racked up an extensive rap sheet in Montana, Michigan, and Idaho on charges linked to financial and firearms violations. He was charged with trying to escape from prison, writing bad checks, and fleeing without paying his bond. He was also transferred to a psychiatric institution in 1999 in Michigan, according to public records.
Members of the United Constitutional Patriots claimed that they were patrolling the border at the request of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents. In a statement to VICE News last week, however, CBP said they do “not endorse private groups or organizations taking enforcement matters into their own hands.”
The militia was also dealt another blow late last week when PayPal and GoFundMe announced they were banning the group from using its services. The militia’s operations relied heavily on donations made via those sites, according to the Verge.
Cover image: This Oct. 3, 2018 photo, shows a border fence in Columbus, N.M., along the U.S.-Mexico border at sunset. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)