The commander of an armed militia known for detaining Central American migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border is accused of training his members to assassinate top Democrats Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and billionaire donor George Soros, FBI officials revealed this week.
The news comes after 69-year-old Larry Mitchell Hopkins was arrested Saturday for being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, CBS News reported. Hopkins, who was nabbed by FBI officials in Sunland, New Mexico, was previously convicted in 2006 on similar charges.
“[Mr. Hopkins] is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families,” New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said 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 armed vigilantes.”
Hopkins’ militia group, the United Constitutional Patriots, pegs itself as an organization for “Americans that believe in the … rights of every American that will stand up … [and] keep America safe.” However, the far-right group has been known to kidnap and detain migrants at gunpoint with the goal of stopping illegal immigration into the U.S.
Undocumented migrants aren’t the only issue on their agenda, however. The FBI says Hopkins told witnesses during a 2017 investigation that his group was training to kill three prominent Democratic figures. Around that same time, the FBI actually visited Hopkins’ home and found at least 10 guns there, but agents did not arrest him then as being a felon on possession of a firearm.
The militia man appeared in federal court in Las Cruces on Monday, where he faced a judge for his most recent firearms charges. According to the Las Cruces Sun-News, Hopkins faces a maximum penalty of 10 years behind bars, three years’ probation and a $250,000 fine. All his weapons and ammunition are also at risk of forfeiture.
Before Hopkins’ arrest on Saturday, federal authorities had warned private groups against policing the border after a string of online videos showing armed civilians impersonating border officials and detaining large groups of migrants, reported CBS News. One such video featured members of the United Constitutional Patriots ordering migrant families, including young children, to sit in the dirt until official Border Patrol agents arrived.
“I don’t know if we got ’em all. But this is crazy” a woman says in a live video posted to the group’s Facebook page on Tuesday. “I don’t know what to say about this other than the fact it’s gotta stop.”
The militia is estimated to have detained some 200 migrants as they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border last week, The New York Times reported. In the past 60 days alone, the group has reportedly detained nearly 5,600 migrants.
Allegra Love, executive director of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, which provides free legal help to immigrants, spoke out against armed militias like Hopkins’, calling them “outrageous.”
“We don’t need citizens confronting [migrants] at gunpoint,” Love told the Sante Fe New Mexican. “They’re already fleeing violence in their home countries. It’s an incredibly difficult journey, morale is low, only to be assaulted by citizens of this country? We can meet these folks with compassion.”
In a tweet, the U.S. Border Patrol said it “does not endorse or condone private groups or organizations that take enforcement matters into their own hands. Interference by civilians in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences for all parties involved.”
Hopkins’ detention hearing is scheduled for April 29.
Watch more in the video below.