Julian LeBaron is a farmer, freelance writer, activist, and member of a Mormon enclave in the Sonora region of Mexico. His family were victims of a vicious attack in Mexico that claimed the lives of three mothers and six children.
Family members shared videos of the aftermath on social media on Monday, November 4. “13 US CITIZENS KIDNAPPED AND BEING KILLED…” Kenny LeBaron posted on his Facebook page, adding that those slain included mothers and young children. Another relative, Jhon LeBaron, posted similar details.
According to NBC News, the victims include three adult women, Dawna Langford, 43; Christina Marie Langford Johnson, 29; and Rhonita Miller, also known as Rhonita Maria LeBaron, 30. Six children were also killed, family members say. They have been identified as Howard Miller, 12; Trevor Langford, 11; Krystal Miller, 10; Rogan Langford, 2; and 8-month-old twins, Titus and Tiana Miller.
The enclave is comprised of descendants of Mormons who fled the US in the 19th century after being persecuted for their traditions. Members of the family have dual American and Mexican citizenship.
The LeBaron Mormon sect in Mexico has been battling with the cartels in Mexico since 2009. Their outspoken, anti-crime views and perceived wealth has drawn them unwanted attention and led to several bouts of violence before this latest incident.
President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter: “A wonderful family and friends from Utah got caught between two vicious drug cartels, who were shooting at each other, with the result being many great American people killed, including young children, and some missing. If Mexico needs or requests help in cleaning out these monsters, the United States stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively. The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!”
Julian LeBaron is the spokesperson of the family and has been an activist rallying against the cartels for years.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Julian LeBaron’s Brother Was Killed by the Cartel in a Raid on Their Compound
The LeBaron family’s feud with cartel members started back in 2009 when Julian’s brother, Benjamin LeBaron and his brother-in-law, Luis Widmar, were kidnapped and killed by an unnamed cartel.
Benjamin LeBaron, 31, whom everyone called Benji, drew the ire of the cartels after he publicly refused to pay a $1 million ransom demanded by kidnappers who had grabbed his teenage brother from a family ranch in May. The family ended up recovering his brother alive.
In addition, the LeBaron Mormon community has been targeted for their relative wealth. According to The Daily Herald, prior to the attack, the family’s “telephones ring with threats of extortion.” and “Their children and elders are taken by kidnappers.”
On July 7, 2009, two pickup trucks filled with 15 to 20 heavily armed men, wearing helmets, bulletproof vests, and blue uniforms descended upon LeBaron’s house. They smashed in his windows and shouted for him to open the door.
They mercilessly beat him in front of his family until his brother-in-law, Widmar, heard the ruckus from next door and came to help. The cartel members kidnapped him too, threw both men in their car, and took off.
The bodies of Benjamin and Luis were found beaten and shot to death two miles from the property with a sign that read: “This is for the leaders of LeBaron who didn’t believe and who still don’t believe.”
“We’re living in a war zone, but it’s a war zone with little kids running all around in the yard,” Julian LeBaron told The Daily Herald at the time.
Despite the tragedy, Julian remained defiant to their demands. “…the last thing we could do was give them the money, or we would be invaded by this scum,” Julian LeBaron said.
2. He Bought Firearms and Learned to Shoot After His Brother Was Murdered
After Benjamin was murdered by the cartel, Julian and Alex LeBaron decided to purchase and train with firearms to prevent it from happening again.
“I think there would be less violence if there were more guns, in the sense that I could barge in here and do whatever I want, knowing that this guy doesn’t have a gun,” Jose Widmar, the brother of slain Luis Widmar, told NPR in a 2012 interview.
Alex LeBaron, a 31-year-old Chihuahua state who attended college in New Mexico and served in the U.S. Navy, has armed his family and regularly attends target practice with them, according to NPR. If elected into Federal congress, he vows to change Mexico’s gun laws.
“We’re Mexican citizens 100 percent, and we have the right to bear arms, and we’re going to keep fighting for that right as long as it takes,” Alex says.
3. He Was Involved in a Shootout with El Barzon, a Mexican Civil Society Organization of Ranchers and Activists
The Mexican cartels aren’t the only ones after the LeBarons. In May 2018, the family was involved in a shootout with El Barzon over an illegal wall the LeBarons were building at their home in Chihuahua. El Barzon claimed that the wall would rob the neighboring communities of much needed clean water.
On April 7, members of five communities and El Barzon tried to break into one of the LeBaron’s family ranches to destroy wells and crops. The LeBarons had armed themselves following the tragic events in 2009 and started shooting at the trespassers.
El Barzon was upset with Joel Francisco LeBaron Soto for clearing 100 hectares of common land to grow 19,000 walnut trees, which require more water than regular crops but are popular due to their high market value.
November 2017, the LeBarons prevented the authorities from checking their property using an appeal granted with the help of Alex LeBaron who is a federal representative. El Barzon tried to break into the property to verify the wells themselves and that’s when the shooting started. Thankfully, nobody was killed in the mayhem.
“We’re tired of this situation,” A rancher with El Barzon told Televisa. “We wanted to do things formally: we filed complaints to the prosecutor, the environmental authorities, and nothing has happened. They’re just delaying things or avoiding taking action.”
“They’re saying that we shot at them, but they’re not saying they were stealing our trucks and tried to run over us and the women,” Julian LeBaron told Televisa. “At that moment we couldn’t ask for permission to see if we can defend ourselves from people attacking us.”
4. He Was Used in a Recruitment Video by Convicted Felon and NXIVM Cult Leader Keith Raniere
Keith Raniere was the founder and leader of the group NXIVM, a multi-level marketing scheme/cult that offered personal and professional development seminars through its “Executive Success Programs”. The organization was also a recruiting platform for or a secret society called “The Vow” where women were branded and forced into sexual slavery.
In 2018 Keith Raniere was indicted and convicted of federal crimes including sex trafficking, conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit forced labor. They are scheduled to be sentenced in 2020.
Before he was indicted, Raniere made a recruiting video for the Mexican market where he offered his coaching and services as a way to solve the country’s problems.
Per El Imparcial:
The film shows Raniere advising Julián LeBarón, a serious and hardworking man whose brother, Benjamin, had been brutally kidnapped at his home and killed outside his Mormon community in Northern Mexico in 2009, after he refused to pay. the ransom for the kidnapping of another of the LeBarón brothers.
The video encouraged members to join the Raniere movement. When journalist León Krauze confronted LeBaron was told about the footage, he said that he “never accepted that the film be used as a recruiting tool of any kind,”
5. He Wrote an Opinion Piece for the Dallas Morning News That Condemned Those ‘Entrenched in Their Evil’ in Mexico
In 2010, LeBaron wrote a piece titled “A petition to the Mexican people” that called on Mexican citizens to stand up to corruption and violence.
“I am petitioning those who are victims of murder, kidnapping or extortion – by people who force the involuntary sacrifice of our good, so they can live further entrenched in their evil and ruin the lives of those who know how to live, for the benefit of parasites who do not.” He wrote.
The piece recounts his previous run-ins with the cartels including his 10-year-old brother, Eric, being kidnapped and held for ransom and the murder of his brother, Benjamin.
“Civilization is not attained by force, but by morality.” LeBaron wrote, “Let us petition our government for a just punishment for crime, so the innocent can be respected, and let us dare to be content with nothing less than freedom.”
“Mexican President Felipe Calderón recently said, “I have the will, but I need men.” My response is: I love my country, Señor. Here in Chihuahua, there is a man you can count on.”