SUNLAND PARK, N.M.—The leader of an armed group that spent two months detaining migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border was hospitalized after he was attacked in jail, his lawyer and authorities said.
Larry Hopkins, 69, also known as Johnny Horton was in a hospital with broken ribs after being attacked on April 23 at the Dona Ana County Detention Center in Las Cruces in southern New Mexico, his attorney, Kelly O’Connell, said.
The detention center confirmed on Wednesday that Hopkins, a federal detainee, was “the alleged victim” of a Tuesday night attack and that the incident was under investigation.
“Hopkins was given medical attention for nonlife-threatening injuries,” county spokeswoman Kelly Jameson said in an email, adding that Hopkins had been transferred out of the jail under the direction of the U.S. Marshals Service.
The attack occurred the same day Hopkins’s United Constitutional Patriots (UCP) group abandoned its border camp near Sunland Park, New Mexico, where they had spent two months detaining thousands of illegal aliens.
O’Connell said he had spoken with Hopkins by phone.
“This guy is very high-profile. So, if he gets put into jail and is immediately attacked after his first hearing just a few days after being put in there, can Dona Ana County correctional protect high-profile defendants?” O’Connell asked.
O’Connell said he did not know why Hopkins had been targeted. But a spokesman for his UCP paramilitary group said he believed it was because of his activity at the border.
“They put him in a pod cell with a group of people and they had just got done watching the article about the ACLU writing about him being racist, and as a result of that he was attacked,” UCP spokesman Jim Benvie said in a video posted online.
Hopkins is being held without bail at least until an arraignment and detention hearing on Monday in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where a judge will decide whether he will have the opportunity to post bail, O’Connell said.
Benvie said the UCP was moving to another campsite in a couple of days and would continue to support the U.S. Border Patrol, which has said it does not support private citizens acting as law enforcement.
Flood of Illegal Aliens into New Mexico
Hopkins was arrested on April 20 in Sunland Park, New Mexico, on a federal complaint charging him with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, according to a statement by the FBI.
“We’re not worried about it, he’s going to be cleared,” said Benvie, a spokesman for the UCP, an armed civilian group that has detained more than 5,600 illegal aliens in past two months.
Benvie blamed the arrest on political pressure from New Mexico’s Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who ordered an investigation into the group after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) accused the UCP of illegally detaining the illegal aliens.
The ACLU advocates for a range of far-left causes, including the defunding of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Hopkins is the “national commander” of the UCP, which has had about a half-dozen members camped out on a rotating basis near Sunland Park since late February.
The UCP describes itself as a “patriot group” that helps the U.S. Border Patrol cope with record numbers of Central American families crossing the border seeking asylum.
“We are here to uphold the Constitution of The United States of America. We uphold this cause against all enemies both foreign and domestic, which shall infringe upon the rights of the citizens given by the Constitution,” states the group’s description on Facebook.
UCP members dress in camouflage and carry rifles for self-defense.
Videos posted online by the group show members telling migrants to stop, sit down, and wait for agents to arrive.
Crowdfunding sites PayPal and GoFundMe on April 19 barred the group from collecting donations, citing policies not to “promote hate or violence.” The ACLU, without evidence, called the UCP a “fascist militia.”
Despite having funding sources cut off, Benvie said the group’s online support had swelled since it came under attack this week. Its Facebook followers have more than doubled since April 17 to almost 5,000 people.
Benvie said the group would probably leave if told to by state police; however, if the order violated the group’s constitutional rights, the UCP would sue the state of New Mexico.
“There’s not going to be any standoffs, this isn’t the Bundy Ranch,” Benvie said, in reference to a 2014 armed confrontation in Nevada.
By Julio-Cesar Chavez and Epoch Times reporter Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.