The leader of an armed group that has been detaining asylum-seeking families from Central America near the Mexican border allegedly claimed recently that his group was training to assassinate former President Barack Obama.
Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, and his group, United Constitutional Patriots, also planned to murder Hillary Clinton and billionaire George Soros, according to a tip received by the FBI.
FBI agents had visited Hopkins’ Flora Vista, New Mexico, residence in November 2017 after learning of the alleged statement, said the CNN. The FBI, during the search, recovered nine weapons and ammunition, according to court papers.
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Hopkins, who is also known as Johnny Horton Jr., appeared in court in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on Monday, charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition arising from the 2017 search.
He was arrested on Saturday on the back of condemnations of videos that were released online showing his members carrying firearms and detaining groups of immigrants crossing the border.
The FBI, according to TIME, has declined to comment on why it waited to bring charges against Hopkins following the 2017 search. His attorney, Kelly O’Connell, said his client, who is being held without bond, will plead not guilty at a hearing next week in Albuquerque.
When FBI agents searched his home in 2017, he allegedly told them that the weapons they found belonged to his girlfriend, but then said one was his.
He further told members of his group in 2017 that they “were training to assassinate George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, because of these individuals support of Antifa,” or anti-fascists, according to the complaint.
The group is mostly seen in videos, armed with rifles and wearing camouflage uniforms while instructing migrant families to sit and wait until Border Patrol agents arrive, according to Aljazeera.
The group has also been accused of detaining women and children at gunpoint, a claim it denies.
“It’s a false narrative that we’re a bunch of armed lunatics and we’re holding kids at gunpoint,” a Patriots spokesman, Jim Benvie said, adding that the group may move its base from the Sunland Park to another location due to the latest developments.
Meanwhile, Hopkins is barred from possessing weapons because of three felony convictions. In 1996, he was first convicted of illegal weapons possession in Michigan, said the FBI. He was convicted over the same reasons in Klamath County, Oregon, in 2006, alongside a charge of impersonating a peace officer.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said last week that she was working with state and local police to address the armed groups, while the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has written to her and state Attorney General Hector Balderas to investigate the incidents.