New Mexico man shot at protest over Spanish conquistador statue installation

A man is in custody for allegedly shooting and injuring a man at a protest Thursday in Española, N.M., authorities said. Local authorities planned to relocate a controversial statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate when a protest formed.

A struggle between activists against the installation broke out when a man, allegedly wearing a MAGA hat, attempted to stand on the pedestal intended for the statue placement, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Oñate, who arrived in present-day New Mexico in 1598, is celebrated as a cultural father figure in Upper Rio Grande communities, but to Native Americans, Oñate is known for having ordered the right feet cut off of 24 tribal workers in captivity, The Associated Press reported.

In 1998, someone sawed off the right foot of the Oñate statue, AP reported.

A man, who identified himself as Native American to a reporter prior to the incident, was shot during the exchange and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. The alleged shooter drove away in a white Tesla before later being arrested, the Journal reported.

A Rio Arriba County sheriff’s spokesperson said the victim was shot in the chest or stomach and was in stable condition.

This is the second time a shooting has happened at a protest rally for the Oñate statue. In June 2020, Steven Ray Baca shot Scott Williams during a rally to remove the statue at Old Town in Albuquerque. Protestors wrapped a chain around the statue, attempting to tear it down. A group of armed men, some reportedly part of an armed militia, gathered to protect it.

Local authorities have not released the name of the victim or the Thursday shooter. The Journal reported that prior to the incident, the shooter identified himself to a reporter as Ryan Martinez.

Rio Arriba County Sheriff Billy Merrifield is expected to hold a press conference on the details of the shooting at 4 p.m. MDT.

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