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FBI Busts Leader of Border Vigilante Group

Larry Hopkins charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 21, 2019 5:41 AM CDT
In this Friday, April 12, 2019 photo, migrants wait in line to get drinks after being dropped off by the Border Patrol at the Gospel Rescue Mission in Las Cruces, NM.   (Blake Gumprecht/The Las Cruces Sun News via AP)

(Newser) – A New Mexico man belonging to an armed group that has detained Central American families near the US-Mexico border was arrested Saturday in a border community on a criminal complaint accusing him of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said that 69-year-old Larry Mitchell Hopkins was the leader of the United Constitutional Patriots. FBI spokesman Frank Fisher told the AP that no additional information would be released until after Hopkins has an initial appearance Monday in federal court in Las Cruces. The New York Times notes that the charge is relatively minor, but could lead the way to charges of kidnapping and impersonating an officer. The FBI said Hopkins is from Flora Vista, a rural community in northern New Mexico approximately 350 miles north of where he was arrested in Sunland Park, a suburb of El Paso, Texas.

Balderas said that Hopkins "is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families. 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." Federal authorities on Friday warned private groups to avoid policing the border after a string of videos on social media showed armed members of UCP detaining large groups of Central American families in New Mexico to wait until Border Patrol agents arrive. Customs and Border Protection said on its Twitter account that it "does not endorse or condone private groups or organizations that take enforcement matters into their own hands." Jim Benvie, a UCP rep, said in a video that members were assisting a "stressed and overstrained Border Patrol" and said the group is legally armed for self-defense and never points guns at migrants.

(Read more US-Mexico border stories.)

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