Would-be border vigilante and amateur gunsmith Joshua Pratchard may have thought he’d made a friend.
Pratchard had gone on border reconnaissance missions with the man, shot guns with him, invited him into his San Diego home and expressed to him his desire to tangle with so-called “rip crews,” or drug bandits, at the border, according to court records. They had even negotiated gun sales, two four-figure exchanges for unregistered rifles of Pratchard’s.
Pratchard was sentenced to 75 months in federal prison on Tuesday — his friend was a confidential source for the government.
And based on extensively recorded conversations between Pratchard and the source, prosecutors painted a picture in court of a man with an “anger problem” and easy access to weapons.
The source first became aware of Pratchard in Arizona, when, according to court documents, he encountered him on an operation with Arizona Border Recon — the border militia group that was originally the government source’s focus.
Pratchard became angry when he was told by the group’s leader that he couldn’t use a silencer on his gun, FBI agent Ryan McGee testified, and also “that he was not allowed to go hands-on,” meaning the militia would not let him “physically detain or otherwise restrain any suspected undocumented immigrants.”
It was Pratchard’s first time out with the militia, and he was not allowed back, the government source told his FBI handlers. The FBI, McGee testified, told its source to keep talking to Pratchard.
And in “a couple dozen” hours of audio and video that the source recorded of their subsequent interactions, as described by McGee in a detention hearing last year, Pratchard expressed his enthusiasm for getting physical with people at the border.
“Does this mean we get to engage rip crews?” he reportedly asked the source before the pair patrolled the border together in April, according to a conversation McGee quoted in court.
“More likely than not,” the source allegedly replied. “Not looking forward to it.”
“I am,” Pratchard allegedly said, adding: “I want to do it.”
At one point, when the government’s source was visiting Pratchard at his home, Pratchard allegedly said to his dog: “Who’s that? Go get him. Go get him. Go get that Mexican.”
Aside from his enthusiasm for stalking the border, Pratchard had what McGee described as the “vast majority” of equipment needed to manufacture firearms, right in his house.
“They just get addicting, and you can’t stop,” Pratchard allegedly told the source in April, referring to guns he claimed to have built. “Can’t stop, won’t stop, man.”
Separately, as he discussed one of the gun sales with the government source, he allegedly expressed concern about “sheriffs and fucking federal law enforcement” finding out.
Tuesday’s sentencing followed Pratchard’s February guilty plea on 13 counts, including being a felon in possession of a firearm, unlicensed sale and transfer of a firearm, and possessing an unregistered firearm.
“I don’t want anything to do with guns anymore,” Pratchard said in court Tuesday, the Arizona Daily Star reported. “They are the bane of my existence.”
The defendant had a criminal history, which prosecutors raised in court.
In 2007, he got into an altercation at an Oktoberfest celebration. A police report from the incident said Pratchard stomped on another man’s face, leaving him unconscious and “lying in a pool of blood.” He was convicted of assault resulting in serious bodily injury.
In 2014, he was arrested after a domestic dispute. His wife Melissa Pratchard said in a statement at the time that he told her she “had five seconds to leave or he was going to hurt me.” She did not press charges.
Years earlier, while serving in the Marines, Pratchard was convicted in a military court of using and distributing ecstasy.
Pratchard, a federal prosecutor reportedly said, “has an anger problem, plain and simple.”