More than six months after he went into hiding, the leader of a Texas anti-immigrant militia who was wanted by federal authorities was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, law enforcement officials said.

Police found the body of Kevin Lyndel “KC” Massey, 53, last month in a wooded part of Van Zandt County, Tex., Sheriff Dale Corbett said in a statement.

Someone called 911 around 6:40 p.m. on Dec. 23 to report an unresponsive person, and Massey was identified from his fingerprints, Corbett said. An autopsy will determine the official cause of death. Massey’s death was first reported by the Dallas Morning News.

Border militias have faced intense scrutiny recently as immigrant advocates, civil rights groups and some law enforcement officials say immigration enforcement should be left to the agents in the field and not to armed vigilantes such as Massey.

Scores of gun-carrying civilians have organized patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border in the past year, inspired by President Trump’s warnings about Central American migrants seeking to cross into the United States. Videos have surfaced showing militia members rounding up migrants at gunpoint.

Border officials say they discourage private groups from taking matters into their own hands, and federal prosecutors have charged some militia members. Earlier this month, the leader of a New Mexico-based militia pleaded guilty to a federal weapons charge that prosecutors filed after footage of the group detaining women and children at the border went viral.

Massey, an electrician by trade, was the self-described commander of Rusty’s Rangers, an anti-immigrant militia active in 2014 that regularly posted footage of patrols on Facebook. The militia claimed it had detained migrants at gunpoint and bound their wrists with zip ties. His border activities and violent anti-government rhetoric helped him achieve a small cult following among fellow militia members and a few right-wing bloggers.

Massey and other members of the militia were patrolling the border in Southeast Texas in August 2014 when they encountered U.S. Border Patrol agents in the brush. One of the men pointed a pistol at an agent, who fired several shots in their direction but missed, according to court documents.

Then Massey, who had a previous burglary on his record, arrived with a pistol and a rifle. Investigators also found materials in his truck and motel room that could have been combined to make an explosive device. Among the ingredients was suspected ammonium nitrate, which Timothy McVeigh used in 1995 to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City and kill 168 people.

Massey was convicted in federal court in 2015 of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to 41 months in prison.

In May 2019, less than a year after his release, he went to ground, according to court documents. The FBI and U.S. Marshals said he “absconded” from his supervised release and plastered his mug shot on social media, warning he had threatened to “battle” law enforcement.

A post from June on a Facebook fan page for Massey said the “unconstitutional courts” had already cost him more than three years in prison. It was unclear who wrote the post.

“The feds continued to subject KC to their tyranny after release from prison, while serving a double jeopardy sentence of 3 years probation,” the post said. “KC is NOT going to allow himself to be kidnapped again. Death before dishonor!”

While Massey was on the run, other ominous posts regularly appeared from his Facebook account — some written by him and others written by supporters. They said governments should “fear the people” and Massey would maintain a low profile until it was time for him to become “the bait that bites back.”

“We proven folks are formulating a counter to let them feel the fear and pain of oppression,” read one post, according to court documents. “The tyrants will soon feel what we the people feel.”

Authorities searched for Massey for months. At one point, he narrowly escaped arrest at the home of a friend who allegedly harbored him, took him to dinner at a steakhouse and gave him money for cigarettes.

Reports of Massey’s death first surfaced just before Christmas, but authorities did not confirm he had died until later. An obituary called him a “force of nature” and a “very generous person” who was “routinely giving back to his community.”

Massey’s son Kory Massey declined to comment on his father’s death.

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