How I Met Jason Henza: Guest Post from an Unsung Hero

This post was written by my good friend and someone I call my crypto Dad Doug Barbieri. Originally posted on substack, here. While he was interviewed by the producers of The Anarchists, his story with us so far has not been worked into the episodes. Its hard to fit 6 years into only 6 hours so to an extent, I understand. Anyway, here is his story about his straight up act of heroism that day.

Doug outside of his former building, which became a refuge for me at times after the murder.

February 1st, 2016 was a very long day. It was for me, it was for Lily Forester and it was for Jason Henza. And for John Galton, tragically, it was his last day on earth.

So in January, I found myself living in Acapulco, Mexico. I had recently gone through a divorce, my kids were all grown up and I realized after the divorce and my ex-wife bought me out of our house, that I really had no reason to stay in California. So I moved south. Very south!

I chose Acapulco because I visited the city back in 2016, to attend the Anarchapulco conference. I was inspired by the community, and excited to meet people of like minds. It was at that conference I met Lily and John. (I’m not going to go into the details of who John and Lily are, or how they got to Acapulco; you can watch the HBO series The Anarchists to find out more information about that. Our friends Kim and Todd did an amazing job!) I met them only briefly at the 2016 conference, and told them the liberty movement needed more people like them in it—young and with dreadlocks. It seemed to me it would help appeal to more to the young.

After I returned to California, Lily and I connected on Facebook and we became fast friends, chatting a lot and interacting with our posts. I was fascinated to read about their adventures on the hill, how they fit in with the community and how they made things work. I watched with interest how they created their Anarchforko conference. I wasn’t able to attend Anarchapulco 2017 nor 2018, so I was super excited to go to the 2019 conference and check out the ’Fork. Plus I liked the idea of living in the same city as the conference.

Lily was excited that I was planning on moving to Acapulco, and even made me an important person of her conference.  When I arrived she invited me to come to their weekly “Meat Up.” I had been reading with interest their experiences with the all meat diet they were on, how it was really clearing up the health problems Lily had. So now I got to try la carne asada that I had heard about so much.

The Meat Up was at Gustavo’s restaurant La Tortuga. Lily and John showed up with their charcoal grill and set up outside. They were busy grilling while the rest of us chowed down in the restaurant itself. But I noticed they kept to themselves and didn’t socialize much.

This was the first time I really got to talk to John but he was surprisingly shy, focusing on grilling and not much else. I met Michael “Malux” Alexander at the Meat Up, plus a few other “anarchists” who I don’t remember.

After the Meat Up was over Lily invited me to come up to their house on the hill for “Game Night” which I found out was something they did every week. The game of interest was a board game called, “Settlers of Catan,” a strategy game which it turns out I was no good at playing. John usually swept the board, but sometimes our mutual friend Steve would win. Anyway, we piled into John’s pickup and a subset of the group headed up the hill. I didn’t take any photos while I was in the house, save for this of their stunning view of the bay:

A photo Doug took of the night view from my old house, where the murder happened.

I honestly was scared the first time I went up on the hill. It was an area that had a reputation of being a dangerous place. And it was kinda culture shock for me in many ways. But after going a few times, I started to lose my fear of the place, and began to feel welcome over at John and Lily’s. Lily invited me to come to their weekly game night and I went I think three times. The last time she invited me to come was I believe the day before John got killed. Something kept me from going—I just had a bad feeling and I didn’t want to go for some reason.

The next day, I was invited by another friend to take a sunset cruise on Acapulco Bay (a really awesome deal where you pay a small amount and there is an open bar to just tool around the bay, look at the sites and enjoy yourself).

Dougs beautiful wife, Soledad on a cruise in Acapulco.

I remember I was standing out on the Costera in front of my building waiting for the taxi to arrive to take us to the dock when I get a message from another friend, Tracey, on Facebook, “have you heard what happened to John?! He got shot and killed!” I was floored, I couldn’t believe it—in fact, I didn’t believe it. I looked on Lily’s Facebook profile page…nothing. Then Tracey sent me the video of Jason and Lily’s now famous and tragic live stream call for help. Apparently, Lily’s phone wasn’t working properly (the mic wouldn’t record any audio), so she was using Jason’s phone and his account. The thing is, I wasn’t connected to Jason. In fact, I didn’t even know he existed so it explains why I never saw it.

When I did see the feed of Lily crying for help I died a little bit inside. I had an immediate urge to drop everything and head up the hill at top speed to try to help her. But them, I was afraid. If there are people up there with guns, then I’d be shot and killed—that seemed pointless, and very scary. So I was scared. I felt utterly ashamed of myself for not going to help.

In the video, Lily said words to the effect, “John’s dead, Henza’s been shot, somebody help us!” I was like, “what’s a Henza?”

I found out that even if I did dash up the hill, I would have been too late anyway, since apparently Malux, whose house was near theirs on the hill, made a mad dash to their place and drove Jason and Lily down to a hospital. So I texted Malux and said, “what happened? How is John?” and he texted back one word, “Dead.” Tears flowed down my cheeks because I knew that John was indeed dead and that this terrible nightmare was real. “Where are you?” I texted back, and he dropped a pin to the hospital where he was with Jason. “Where is Lily?” “Dunno, she jumped out of the car halfway down the hill and took off running.”

Suffice to say, I didn’t go on the sunset cruise and instead went to the hospital. When I arrived, there were dozens of cops hanging out at the entrance to the hospital, and a detachment of troops from La Marina (the Mexican version of the US Marines). I figured at that point that if the gunmen were going to the hospital to finish the job it would be suicide for them, so I ran in.

Malux was waiting downstairs in the entrance, sitting in a chair and shaking. I asked him what was going on and he told me that they were kicking Jason out of the hospital because his credit card wasn’t working and he didn’t have enough money on him to pay. They wouldn’t even work on him to stop the bleeding, they were going to boot him out on the street. I said, “No they are not going to do that!” Then the elevator doors open and they wheeled Henza out in a wheelchair. Here this poor guy was, long disheveled hair, clothes soaked with blood, looking like death warmed over. He looked up at me as a nurse wheeled him out of the elevator and stopped in front of me, “who the hell are you?” I extended my hand, “I’m Doug, friend of Lily and John’s. I wish we could have met under better circumstances.” At that point, I gave the doctor who was standing with us my credit card, “charge what you need, I don’t care.” They turned him around back into the elevator and we all headed up to the room with the beds. Henza didn’t know what to make of me, he was pretty impressed that I was willing to stay with him without knowing him from Adam. I told him, “I couldn’t do anything to save John, nor help Lily, so I’ll be goddamned if I let you die. Not on my watch.”

I sat next to Malux while the doctors examined Jason. I was in awe, really, how calm he was. How in control he was. The doctors were nervous—I could see it in the way they were hesitant to do anything. They happened to speak English, so Henza at one point started telling them what to do because they were kinda shutdown. Police were there in the room with us, and they were nervous too. Malux was basically a quivering puddle—he told me that when he heard about Lily’s call for help, he ran from his house on the hill near them to their house, stepped over John’s dead body, ran up the driveway and started banging on the front door. Nothing. For what seemed like an eternity to him, no one answered and he thought, “Holy shit all my friends are dead!” After a bit, Lily opened the door to his great relief and they had to get Jason out of the back room and into his car. Malux saved Jason’s life, really, not me. I just gave the doctors a credit card. Malux stepped over a dead body that day and drove bloody Henza to the hospital.

As the hours wore on, Henza became a central call station, literally giving orders from his hospital bed. Lily texted Malux and said, “I’m going back up to the house on the hill!” And immediately, Jason sternly but calmly said, “tell her `no!` That is a bad idea.” Malux was shaking in his chair even more at this point and Jason, sensing his distress, started talking to Malux in order to calm him down, which seemed to be working. Then Henza was negotiating with the doctors again. “Doug, can you please tell the doctor I think I’m going into shock?” That panicked me because he said it so matter-of-factly. I relayed the message and the doctor assured me he wasn’t, that what he was feeling was a natural reaction to whatever thing they were doing to him. People continued to text in, panicked, and he always seemed to have the correct advice and council. The entire time, he never grunted in pain, just laid there calmly, never panicked, never even raised his voice. He was in control of the room. I have never seen anything like that before or since.

People texted me and told me I should leave, that it was too dangerous, that the gunmen who did this, or the cartel or whatever it was that sent them, will come to finish the job but I stayed anyway. I knew I wasn’t in any danger and that everyone else was panicking. Even if there was a danger, I wasn’t going to leave this man’s side.

At one point, Jason asked me, “Doug can you do me a favor? My clothes are wrecked and I can’t wear them. I need new clothes—a shirt and pants. Can you see if there is a place nearby and I’ll pay you back?” Without missing a beat I was out the door, and found a place across the Costera from the hospital. It turns out it was a high end store, but it didn’t matter because it was close. I picked out a light blue Mexican-style shirt with a set of white pants that I thought looked really nice.

After the doctors removed two of the bullets (it turns out they left the third one in for reasons I still don’t understand), they patched him up. I returned with the new clothes and Jason felt well enough to walk. He dressed, then we all walked out of the hospital down the Costera to find a cab.

Triumphant selfie taken immediately after leaving the hospital post murder.
Henza and Malex (who came to the house immediately post murder)

We managed to get Henza back to the place he was renting in Bonfil. I had no idea where Lily was. I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever see her again as she was on the run. (If you watch the HBO series, you’ll learn the rest of what happened.) Henza dropped into his bed with a grunt and slept it off the rest of the day, and I went back to my apartment satisfied that he was okay. But that night it was hard to sleep thinking about everything that happened, the sudden blow to the community, how Lily’s life just got turned upside down, how John just lost his life and Henza narrowly escaped being killed himself. It was quite a shock and I was in the middle of it.

It turns out that later on that week, I finally met up with Lily again. She was staying with Michael Nemitz for the time being, and eventually, Jason and she went into hiding, staying at an undisclosed location after they were booted out of the Anarcastle. The interesting thing is I never met nor even knew of Paul, so I was oblivious to that side of the drama, so it was interested to have the blanks filled in by the HBO series.

At any rate, this is how Jason and I met and suffice to say we are friends to this day. Friends for life. That day formed a special bond between us. It’s interesting how situations like that have that effect.

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