By David Schwartz
GILBERT, Arizona (Reuters) - Police confirmed on Thursday that a prominent border militia leader and reputed neo-Nazi was among the five shot dead in an apparent murder suicide at a home in a Phoenix suburb.
A gunman opened fire at a house in Gilbert on Wednesday, killing a toddler and three adults before turning the gun on himself, Gilbert Police Sergeant Bill Balafas said.
Among the dead was Jason Todd "JT" Ready, 39, who founded the U.S. Border Guard, a private-citizen militia that hunts for drug traffickers near the Mexican border, police said.
Police declined to confirm local media reports that Ready was the shooter.
Ready had long-held ties to neo-Nazi groups, the Anti-Defamation League says on its website.
The youngest victim was identified as Lily Lynn Mederos, a 15-month-old girl who was still alive at the scene but later died in a hospital.
Also killed were Lisa Lynn Mederos, 47, Amber Nieve Mederos, 23, and Jim Franklin Hyott, 24, police said.
Police found the bodies of two of the adults outside the home and those of the other adults and the child inside.
Officers recovered two handguns and a shotgun from the scene. Balafas said late Wednesday that police had been unable to search the house after an unknown liquid was found in two 55-gallon (208-liter) drums outside the house.
"Right now, we have a hold up because we have a potential hazardous chemical situation," Balafas said.
Investigators subsequently found some "munitions" in the house, and called in federal officers to deal with the items, Balafas said.
Balafas said officers were interviewing a witness to the shooting, which investigators believe stemmed from a "domestic situation."
Ready earlier this year set up an exploratory committee to run for the office of sheriff in Arizona's Pinal County.
A Facebook page titled "JT Ready for Sheriff" carried a message from the administrator that said there were unconfirmed reports that "a cartel assassination squad murdered JT Ready and several of his friends and family this afternoon in Gilbert Arizona."
A Reuters witness saw a black Chevrolet Impala with specialized number plate with the letters "USBG" on it parked outside the home.
A call to the U.S. Border Guard group seeking comment late on Wednesday went unanswered.
Local resident Scott Kirkwood, 43, said neighbors were shocked by the shooting at the home, which he believed was occupied by a family.
"Everyone is shocked and concerned. Nothing like this ever happens in this neighborhood. It's usually very quiet," he said.
"I heard sirens pulling up in my backyard. When I went to investigate, there was like 30 cop cars, five ambulances, a fire truck, a SWAT team, the whole nine yards - it was just blanketing the neighborhood," he added.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Eric Beech)