Bathed in the sunlight of Mexico's dry season, his dreadlocks tumbling down his back, a man who went by the name "John Galton" observed almost two years ago, "There's pockets of freedom all over the world if you're willing to live in freedom."
Galton paid a high price for that freedom. He was gunned down on Friday by a band of men who stormed his home in Acapulco, Mexico, where he and his girlfriend had found safe haven from drug charges in the United States, as they explained in a March 2017 video interview with the conspiracy site Press For Truth.
Joining a community of like-minded expatriates, Galton had sought to build a life as a self-made man, taking a name that was an apparent nod to the hero of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. He advocated drug liberalization and taught classes on cryptocurrencies. He was set to be featured in a documentary called Stateless.
He envisioned himself as a prophet of American entrepreneurship -- but freed from the constraints of the American nation-state.
"Go for what you want to do," he suggested to Americans considering a similar move. "If you think it's not possible, maybe you're doing it in the wrong place."
As for the locals, "They don't seem to mind us living here. We've lived here a year with no issues."
His girlfriend, Lily Forester, nodded her head. Defending the once-glamorous Pacific Coast city now considered Mexico's "murder capital," she said, "It's not perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than anything I've experienced in the States."
On Friday, she was left pleading for help after the attack left her boyfriend dead and another man, Jason Henza, injured.
"If somebody's listening, please, I just -- somebody showed up right after we finished eating, and they shot John and Henza, and I was in the house, and John's dead at the gate," Forester wailed in video she posted on social media. She added, "Somebody please come."
Henza, 43, also recorded his anguished reactions to the attack. Appearing in a bloodied T-shirt, he stared into the camera.
"We were attacked," he said. "I've been shot three times. I'm not doing so good."
"Hopes and prayers, and all that stuff," he added, speculating, "I think it's backlash."
Guerrero State police said in a statement Saturday that the survivors reported armed men showing up at a "cannabis greenhouse" and targeting Galton. The attorney's office, which confirmed that Galton had been killed, said in a statement Sunday that it had found a marijuana laboratory on the premises, including white lights and gas tanks. No suspects had been announced, and a motive for the murder remained unknown.
An email to the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs wasn't immediately returned. The Associated Press reported that Galton and Forester were in their 20s.
In a statement to CoinSpice, a cryptocurrency news site, Forester said, "I will release a statement when it is safe for me to do so. The news is wrong, but I have to wait to tell my story."
Speaking to Dan Dicks of Press For Truth in the spring of 2017, the couple said they had been in Mexico for about a year, and that they had fled a potential 25-year prison sentence related to marijuana.
Interviewed last year for a crypto-anarchist show called the Vonu Podcast, whose host labeled the couple "self-liberators," each described their path to anarchism.
The couple began using cryptocurrencies toward the end of 2011 and made the decision to "de-bank" in 2012, they said. Attempting to live off the grid with only a "cheap smartphone" and the "occasional Google search," they bounced around the Midwest.
In Detroit, where they experimented with gardening and tried to fight government land seizures, they ran afoul of drug laws nearly three years ago, they said.
They were charged with five felonies, Galton said, and faced the possibility of more than 25 years in prison.
That's when they fled, heading first to California and then to Mexico.
They crossed the border with $50 in cash. Once in Acapulco, they found odd jobs in the tourism industry, while also amassing followings on Steemit, a blogging and social networking site.
Elsewhere in Guerrero state, authorities were investigating the killing of eight people in what may have been a dispute over control of a natural spring in an opium-growing area, an official said Monday.
State security spokesman Roberto Alvarez said 20 to 30 people were holding a ceremony at the spring Sunday, praying for rains and a good harvest. Then three men arrived, at least one of them armed with an assault rifle, and opened fire, he said.
Alvarez said there had been a report a week earlier of a dispute over control of the spring. When the army responded to the shooting, they found two fields of poppies in the area.
The spring is near the community of Plan de Ayala in the municipality of Acatepec.
Information for this article was contributed by Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post, and by staff members of The Associated Press.
A Section on 02/05/2019
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