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Charge dropped against suspected shooter of New Mexico statue protester

A New Mexico prosecutor on Wednesday dropped a charge against a man suspected of shooting a protester in New Mexico, stressing the need for further investigation after “rumors on social media” emerged about the incident. 

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez dropped an initial aggravated battery with a deadly weapon charge against Steven Baca, a 31-year-old former Albuquerque City Council candidate, after online images emerged showing the protester, Scott Williams, 39, holding what is rumored to be a knife before he was allegedly shot by Baca, Reuters reported

“There have been rumors on social media about what transpired in the final seconds before this and we are actively looking into those and whether or not this was justified,” Torrez said in an online press briefing, according to the newswire. “The reason he is not facing that charge right now is because this investigation is not complete.”

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During the protest, Williams was reportedly attempting to topple a statue of a Spanish conquistador. 

Torrez said he was concerned that an initial police investigation into the shooting did not identify who owned the multiple weapons — including knives — collected at the scene, nor did investigators interview key bystanders and police, according to Reuters. 

The district attorney reportedly said he expected Baca to claim self-defense in the case. 

Torrez said his office put out a call for information regarding allegations that Williams was armed. 

“Right now I have no evidence to suggest that he was in any way armed,” Torrez said, according to Reuters. “The fact that we haven’t charged it [shooting charge] today doesn’t mean it will not be charged.”

Torrez filed four new charges against Baca for unlawful carrying of a firearm and battery for allegedly assaulting three women before the shooting, according to Reuters. 

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Baca’s lawyer Jason Bowles applauded the decision to drop the shooting charge. 

Bowles told the Albuquerque Journal he believes “the totality of the facts show that this case involves Mr. Baca’s right and exercise of self-defense.”

Bowles claimed in a statement to the newspaper that video of the incident shows Baca “being chased and struck with a skateboard by one assailant, being pursued while he was backing up, shouts in the crowd to ‘kill him,’ being tackled and struck, and then benign confronted with another assailant wielding a knife in a menacing manner towards him.” 

“With multiple assailants attacking him with weapons, Mr. Baca at that point had no choice but to defend himself using force,” Bowles added. 

However, Laura Schauer, the attorney representing Williams and his family, said the video she’s seen shows Williams was defending his friends from Baca. 

“Baca had a gun out before Scott picked up his skateboard to defend his friends,” Ives told the Albuquerque Journal. “All of this happened immediately after Baca had thrown a woman down and Scott was turning away and running away when he was shot four times.”