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Shooter Opens Fire at New Mexico Protest Against Conquistador Statue, Injuring 1

A man was shot Thursday after gunfire erupted at a protest in northern New Mexico, where activists opposed the installation of a statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate.

The man was injured and taken to the hospital while Rio Arriba County sheriff’s officials arrested the suspected shooter, 23-year-old Ryan Martinez. Authorities said Martinez was the only suspect wanted in connection to the shooting.

Oñate has been a controversial figure in New Mexico’s history for generations. Activists have targeted the statue and other likenesses of the Spaniard for what they say was his brutal and oppressive treatment of Native Americans during the Spanish conquest of what is now the Southwestern United States. Some Hispanics view the statue as a symbol of their heritage.

The county had previously postponed the installation of the statue in anticipation of public safety concerns, according to The Associated Press.

Protesters arrived Tuesday and pitched tents. They placed offerings on and around the empty pedestal to Oñate, including pottery, corn stalks, votive candles and a basket of vegetables. Banners read, “not today Oñate,” and “celebrate resistance not conquistadores.”

The suspected shooter had argued with protesters and was told by law enforcement officers to leave before violence erupted. Video filmed by an onlooker showed an altercation between the man and a group of protesters which ended in a shooting.

A witness told local news station KRQE that the suspect was trying to get back into the protest circle, which was right in front of the sheriff’s office. 

“He was trying to get back into the circle. And they were trying to hold him from coming back in because there were children there. And that’s when an altercation took place,” said witness Raymon Naranj. 

The video shows the suspect, wearing a green sweatshirt and red MAGA hat, hop over a short wall and rush at the crowd while others grabbed him.

“Hey, hey, hey. Let him go!” one person yelled before the suspect broke free and jumped back over the wall. He then drew a gun from his waistband and appeared to fire a single shot before fleeing the scene. People can be heard screaming after the shot rang out.

One person could be heard saying, “Help me! Help me!” and “I can’t breathe.” 

The wounded man, who has not been identified, was shot in the upper torso and was being treated at a local hospital, authorities said. 

Authorities said they have not determined a motive in the shooting.

“Once again, the saddest part about this is we have another incident of gun violence,” County Sheriff Billy Merrifield told reporters. 

This is the second time someone was shot at a Juan de Oñate statue protest. On June 15, 2020, Scott Williams was shot after protesters attempted to topple a bronze Oñate statue outside an Albuquerque museum. Williams was taken to a local hospital where he was listed in critical but stable condition, police said at the time. 

The man who shot and injured Williams, Stephen Baca, had claimed self-defense. He pleaded no contest to one aggravated battery charge and guilty to battery for pushing two women down. Baca also pleaded guilty to unlawfully carrying a deadly weapon because he concealed his gun without a license, KRQE reported. 

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez condemned Thursdays’ shooting in a statement. 

“I strongly condemn the cowardly act of violence that we witnessed today in Rio Arriba County and stand ready to assist local law enforcement in whatever way possible. There is no excuse and no place for political violence in America. Regardless of our diverse political views we must remain committed to the rule of law and the right of every citizen to express themselves without fear,” Torrez said.

Source : Fox News