In her new book, “Scorpions for Breakfast”, Governor Jan Brewer recounts her journey to try to secure her state’s border against illegal immigrants, and some of the controversy that followed. Here’s an excerpt.
When the sheriff’s deputies finally found Rob Krentz, his dog, Blue, was still clinging to life. Even after fourteen hours lying, wounded, in the back of Rob’s four-wheeler, Blue still fought to defendhis master. But Blue’s loyalty was for nothing. Rob was dead. They found him lying beside his still-idling vehicle, with a gunshot wound in his left side. The sheriff’s office later said it had killed him within minutes.
As investigators pieced together the events that led up to Rob’s death, we learned that the day Rob died, March 27, 2010, had been a pretty typical one. It began with him out on his four-wheeler, Blue by his side, working his sprawling 35,000-acre ranch in Cochise County, about twelve miles from the Mexican border. Rob was the third generation of the Krentz family to run the ranch, and it was more than a job. The land was both his livelihood and his life. And life in the desert Southwest is water. So Rob was out that morning checking the lines that delivered water to his 1,000 head of cattle.
If the day was a typical one, the last words Rob spoke to his brother Phil were also pretty unremarkable. At about 10:00 a.m., Rob radioed to say that he had found an illegal alien on his property. He was going to help him, Rob said, and Phil should contact the Border Patrol.
Like all the ranchers along the border, Rob regularly encountered exhausted, lost, and dehydrated illegal aliens on this land. He was well known for helping these desperate souls with some water, some food, and a kind word or two in Spanish. He helped them despite the trash and the fires they left on his property, the cut fences and broken water lines, and the frightened, unsettled cattle. Rob once estimated that over a five-year period, illegal immigration through his ranch had cost him a whopping $8 million. The damage he suffered because of the unsecured border to his south was real. But Rob never lost his humanity. He was that kind of guy.
The Krentz family is an Arizona ranching institution. They have been ranching along the border since 1907. Rob worked the land along with Phil, Phil’s son Ben, Rob’s wife, Sue, and their son Frank, one of three children they had raised on the ranch. Rob had been outspoken about the threat illegal immigration posed to him and his neighbors. Their house had been broken into, they’d been physically threatened, and one of their calves had been butchered. But his was always the voice of reason, not hatred and resentment. He and Sue had repeatedly called on the federal government to do its job. That’s all: just do its job and keep them safe.
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As Phil Krentz hung up the radio that day, a seed of worry began to grow in his mind. The day before, Phil had spotted marijuana smugglers on the ranch and called the Border Patrol. Border agents responded and seized more than 200 pounds of marijuana and arrested eight illegal aliens. Phil knew that the Mexican drug cartels viciously guarded their smuggling routes.
Was a member of the smuggling ring planning to take revenge on the Krentz family? Was Rob just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Had he seen too much?
Rob and Phil were supposed to meet up that day at noon. When Rob didn’t show and didn’t respond to Phil’s radio calls, the Krentz family and friends took off on their ATVs to search the ranch. When they hadn’t found Rob by six o’clock that evening, they made two calls: One was to Rob’s wife, Sue, who was in Phoenix visiting family. Come home, they said. We can’t find Rob. The second was to Cochise County sheriff Larry Dever. Sheriff Dever immediately contacted his search-and-rescue squad, and the Border Patrol responded as well. But it was after dark when the Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter finally spotted Rob by the lights of his still-running ATV.
I was at home when I got the call. It was late at night. A highly regarded rancher had been killed in the south of the state, I was told. Rob Krentz had been killed. That’s all they knew. I hung up the phone. And as I waited for my staff to get back to me with more information, I grieved, I worried, and I wondered. Everyone in Arizona, it seemed, either knew Rob or knew of him. I had met him at a couple of meetings with the ranchers. Had he been a victim of the escalating violence on the border? As I waited, I couldn’t help but fear the worst. Oh my God, what has happened? We have to get a handle on this.
I was determined to find out exactly what had happened. I called Sheriff Dever. My staff kept me updated with any news. Soon we learned that the officers who responded to the scene had found some important clues. Whoever shot Rob had done so without warning: Rob’s rifle and a pistol were found secured in his ATV. Still, Rob had managed to drive about 300 yards after he had been shot. By following the tracks of his four-wheeler, law enforcement found three spent bullet shells, and something else: the dusty footprints of one person. Trackers followed the footprints south for about twenty miles, all the way to the U.S.-Mexico border. Then they lost them. And that’s where the trail went cold.
To this day, Rob Krentz’s killer has never been found. Still, it’s difficult to overstate the impact his death had on Arizona, and on America. After Rob was murdered, politicians from Representative Gabrielle Giffords to Senator John McCain joined me in calling for President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano to deploy the National Guard to the border.
Former congressman J. D. Hayworth, who was challenging Senator John McCain in the GOP primary at the time, called Rob a “martyr” for the cause of border security. Rob’s funeral mass in Douglas attracted more than 1,000 people.
Reprinted from "Scorpions for Breakfast" by Jan Brewer © 2011 by Jan Brewer. Used with permission of the publisher, Broadside Books.
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