Suspect arrested after man protesting statue in Albuquerque is shot
Albuquerque, N.M., police have arrested a 31-year-old former City Council candidate in connection with shooting a protester who was attempting to topple a statue of a Spanish conquistador Monday.
Steven Baca, who ran for the Albuquerque City Council in 2019, has been charged with aggravated battery after allegedly shooting a man in the back and near his shoulder. A scuffle broke out at the Monday protest after armed militia members assembled to counterprotest against demonstrators, according to New Mexico public radio station KUNM.
During the Monday evening demonstration, protesters attempted to topple the statue of Juan de Oñate, who ordered the so-called Acoma Massacre, resulting in the deaths of about 800 Acoma Pueblo Native Americans. A militiaman carrying a long gun attempted to stop one of them, leading to a scuffle in which Baca allegedly threw a young woman to the ground, after which he ran from the scene and, after being hit with a skateboard, sprayed pepper spray at another woman before firing several shots when someone tackled him, according to the station.
Similar armed militia groups have been present at several earlier Albuquerque demonstrations, and another group, the American Patriots of New Mexico, told KUNM they have frequently collaborated with police, which the Albuquerque Police Department said was not sanctioned by the department.
Police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said there was little the police could do if armed militia groups appeared at protests unless they actively broke any laws.
“We’ve monitored them, we’ve talked to them,” Gallegos said, “we’ve tried to figure out, you know — but when they’re out there with weapons, unless they’re committing an assault, what are we supposed to do?”
The Albuquerque Police Department said in a Monday statement that officers “used chemical irritants and flash bangs to protect officers and detain individuals involved in the shooting.”
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller (D), meanwhile, has said the statue will be removed “until the appropriate civic institutions can determine next steps” following the incident, according to NPR.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grishham (D) called the shooting “unspeakable” and said the militia members “were there for one reason: To menace protesters, to present an unsanctioned show of unregulated force.”
My statement on the “militia” and violence in Albuquerque tonight: pic.twitter.com/BZISvyau3k
— Michelle Lujan Grisham (@GovMLG) June 16, 2020