Phoenix, Arizona police officers arrested once-prominent vigilante leader Chris Simcox, 52, on June 19 on child molestation charges. Authorities have charged Simcox with two counts of child molestation, one count of attempted child molestation, and two counts of sexual conduct with a minor. According to police, Simcox had allegedly molested several victims, all girls under 10 years of age, within recent months.
The arrest marked a new low for Simcox, who at one point in the mid-2000s achieved national notoriety for his high-profile vigilante patrols along the Arizona-Mexico border as one of the founders of the Minuteman Project. However, his fall from grace was just as rapid as his ascent.
Simcox spent his early adult years as a kindergarten teacher in California, before moving to Tombstone, Arizona, where he bought a tiny newspaper, the Tombstone Tumbleweed, in 2002. Simcox used the newspaper as an outlet for his anti-immigration views and soon issued a call for a “Citizens Border Patrol Militia” to patrol the border with Mexico. Simcox subsequently started an early border vigilante group, Civil Homeland Defense. By 2004, he had received probation and a fine following a conviction for carrying a firearm onto a national park.
In 2005, Simcox banded together with Californian Jim Gilchrist to form the Minuteman Project, a high-profile effort to get mainstream support for border vigilante activities. In this, Simcox and Gilchrist were at first quite successful, garnering national attention and spawning various “Minuteman” groups across the country. For a brief period of time, Simcox could hobnob with politicians such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rick Perry.
However, Simcox and Gilchrist could not get along and parted ways, splitting the Minuteman Project into two separate organizations. Simcox’s half became the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC) and focused on border vigilante activity. Because of Simcox’s lack of leadership skills, as well as financial scandals, the group went into decline, shedding members and chapters. In 2009, Simcox attempted a different tactic, stepping down from MCDC leadership and announcing he would attempt to unseat Arizona Senator John McCain. This was no more successful; by early 2010, he dropped out of the race.
The molestation charges against Simcox are the first such criminal charges against him, but not the first allegations against him related to children. In 2005, Deborah Crews, one of Simcox’s ex-wives, told the Southern Poverty Law Center that in 1998 Simcox allegedly “tried to molest our daughter when he was intoxicated.” No charges were apparently filed. A second ex-wife, Kim Dunbar, filed a successful legal appeal for full custody of their son. She alleged that Simcox had violent rages, including one incident in which she said Simcox slapped his four-year-old son hard enough to leave a mark lasting days.