Updated Jun 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

One man shot during protest at statue of New Mexico conquistador

Sculpture garden at Albuquerque Museum of Art & History, New Mexico
The sculpture garden at Albuquerque Museum of Art & History in New Mexico. Photo: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The FBI is assisting after one man was shot during a demonstration where protesters were trying to topple a conquistador's statue in New Mexico Monday night, Albuquerque Police Department tweeted.

Details: New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham indicated militia were involved in the shooting and police said they were investigating this as a motive. Steven Baca, a 31-year-old former City Council candidate, was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon for shooting Scott Williams, Reuters reported on Tuesday. It's not clear if the suspect is a militia member.

"We are receiving reports about vigilante groups possibly instigating this violence. If this is true will be holding them accountable to the fullest extent of the law, including federal hate group designation and prosecution."
— Albuquerque police chief Michael Geier said in a statement

The big picture: Gunshots rang out as people gathered on the street near the Albuquerque Museum for the removal of a statue of Juan de Oñate, a 16th-century Spanish conquistador and colonial governor of the-then province, KOB 4 video shows. The wounded man was in a critical but stable condition, per a police tweet.

  • Police said they deployed chemical irritants and flash bangs after the shooting "to protect officers and detain individuals," who were disarmed and taken into custody.
  • The protest was peaceful until demonstrators "took a pickaxe to the statue and members of the heavily armed New Mexico Civil Guard, a civilian group, tried to protect the monument," the Albuquerque Journal reports.

What they're saying: Grisham said in a statement there was "absolutely no space" for "any violent would-be 'militia' seeking to terrorize New Mexicans" as she vowed the instigators would be "rooted out" and held accountable by law.

  • Sen. Martin Heinrich (D) called for the Justice Department to investigate the shooting, tweeting Monday night, "This is not the first report of heavily armed civilian militias appearing at protests around New Mexico in recent weeks. These extremists cannot be allowed to silence peaceful protests or inflict violence."
  • Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller condemned the shooting as an "unacceptable act of violence." "In order to contain the public safety risk, the City will be removing the statue until the appropriate civic institutions can determine next steps," he tweeted.

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Editor's note: This article has been updated with details of the arrest.

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