Phil Krentz, younger brother of murdered rancher Rob Krentz, called the other night and talked at length to a reporter for the first time since March 27. He opened up about his life on the ranch now, the impact that terrible day has had on him, and the support he and other family members have been getting.
He said Rob’s wife, Sue, and her two sons attended the recent National Rifle Association convention, which began May 13 in North Carolina. NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre chartered a plane to fly them out there. They returned Sunday, May 16.
Krentz couldn’t go because he had to work. But he says, “It was real great deal,” and emblematic of the generosity and kindness the family has been shown.
“The support is everywhere,” Krentz says. “Everywhere I go, when people find out who I am, it's just unbelievable, the outpouring of emotion that’s going on. It seems like this has touched a nerve in a lot of people. You go somewhere and they find out what your name is, then they ask, ‘Are you any relation?’ And they say, ‘I want to offer you my condolences. This is just awful.’
“I went to Tucson, and I went to three places, and two of the three places asked me about it. I think people are starting to realize this is their back door, too, and that it can happen to them also. That's just my opinion.”
I asked what it has been like on the ground at the ranch since March 27.
“I'm seeing lots of stuff, and you hear about lots of stuff, a load or two of dope every day. So, you know, you hear these deals, and there’s no deterrence. How are you going to stop these guys? I don't know what the answer is. Is it just the politicians, the ACLU, or I don't know who has a finger on everything so they won't let anything get done.
“All I know is they’re putting crosshairs on everybody's head down here, and that includes law enforcement and anybody that works in this terrain. Every time I leave here I'm, well, I won't say I'm scared, because I refuse to be scared. But you just wonder what the day is going to entail.”
What do you mean ‘crosshairs’?
“Anything can happen, Leo. Maybe I might get shot, too. If I happen up on the right deal at the right time and the right place, I may get shot, too.
Do you go out working on the ranch alone?
“I have to go out alone. There just aren’t enough of us around, with my nephew and my son and me, we've got too much to do. We have to go separate ways in order to get everything done all day. And I'm not going to let that scare me. But I think I'm more paranoid about my son and my nephew.”
“It's paranoia. I just don't know what's around the next bend, if you know what I'm saying. Probably it's nothing. I've never had to worry about this before. It’s always been kind of a safe place. We knew they (drug smugglers) were there, and they just kind of went their way and you went yours, and then this thing happened with Rob, so it just took it up to another level.
“Unless something is done about it, I think people's lives in the United States are really in jeopardy.”
“Because there’ll be no recourse. The cartels can do what they want, and they know it.
“You know, this whole deal is not an immigration issue. This whole issue is about people's safety and securing the border. You just don't know what is crossing the border, and we've been saying that for years. And Rob and whoever else you talk to who has lived around here and seen what we've seen, it's not a safe place anymore. Some of the people you see, it just makes you wonder, and the things that you find. I know some people who have found prayer rugs and stuff like that in various locations, so you really wonder.”
I mentioned the story of Terrie and Glen Stoller, winter visitors whose home is north of the Krentz ranch, near Apache. They recently sold their home and fled to California because of the growing danger.
“But my roots are here,” Krentz said. “I'm not going to be run off from here. Even us, you know, the ranch has been in the family for more than a hundred years, but every generation has bought it from the previous generation and we just eke out a living here.
“Everybody thinks that because of what we own and whatnot, and sure, we own a lot, but we just live from year to year. We don't get rich off of this. In order to do something like this, you just really have to love the lifestyle.
“But this is starting to get to be more than just a lifestyle to me. This is getting to be, like, I'll be damned if they’re going to whip me down. I'm here until something gets done about it or I get killed or whatever. Somebody has to stick up for this country because it is going to hell in a hand basket. Maybe this is my part of trying to protect my country.”
Krentz said he was nervous speaking out for the first time, especially with Rob’s killer still at large.
“I know we haven’t talked about anything about that, but I’m kind of nervous. I want them to catch this guy. That’s my main goal and everything else will fall into place. It’d be nice to have some kind of closure.”
Krentz spoke frankly, but without bitterness, and hoped nothing he said would cause any more upset than has already occurred. He said there has been enough of that all the way around.
“I don't want anybody else to get hurt out of this, any law enforcement or anything like that,” Krentz said. “They need to be on the border, and they need to do their jobs, and they’re paid to do their jobs. But we've got to protect them also. I just don't want anybody else to get hurt in this whole damn deal.”