By Andrew Hay
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Reuters) – A bomb threat prompted security officers on Monday to evacuate the courthouse where the leader of a paramilitary group that has detained undocumented migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border faces federal weapons charges.
Larry Hopkins, commander of the United Constitutional Patriots, has been charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm after the FBI said it found guns during a 2017 visit to his home.
Moments before Hopkins was to stand and face U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Molzen, a U.S. Marshal walked towards him, motioned to him to get up and cleared the courtroom.
“There’s been a bomb threat, all of you have to evacuate,” the marshal said.
Hopkins, 69, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on April 20, days after the American Civil Liberties Union accused the group of illegally detaining migrants, and New Mexico’s Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said its activities must cease.
The charges relate to weapons the FBI found at Hopkins home in 2017, while investigating reports that he was running a militia. They do not relate to any of his group’s conduct at the border.
When agents entered the home they collected nine firearms, ranging from pistols to rifles, which Hopkins, also known as Johnny Horton Jr, illegally possessed as he had at least one prior felony conviction, according to the complaint.
The United Constitutional Patriots has helped the U.S. Border Patrol, which has been overwhelmed by record numbers of Central American families seeking asylum, detain some 5,600 migrants in New Mexico in the last 60 days, the group said.
Members of the United Constitutional Patriots have patrolled with rifles and camouflage uniforms bearing the group’s eagle insignia. The group has posted dozens of videos showing its members instructing migrant families to sit and wait until Border Patrol agents arrive.
Hopkins in 2017 allegedly boasted that his group was training to kill former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and financier George Soros, an FBI agent said in court papers.
(Reporting by Andrew Hay, Editing by Scott Malone and James Dalgleish)