New Mexico man charged with attempted murder in protest shooting

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) -A New Mexico man was charged with attempted murder for allegedly shooting a demonstrator at a protest over plans to reinstall a statue of a Spanish conquistador in the north of the state, police said.

Twenty-three-year-old Ryan Martinez of Sandia Park was arrested on Thursday after he shot a 42-year-old man while attempting to disrupt a peaceful protest at a civic center in Espanola, state police said in a statement.

The return of the statue of 16th-century colonial ruler Juan de Onate to a pedestal outside the public offices had been planned for Thursday but postponed by officials due to security concerns. The bronze was taken down in 2020 during nationwide anti-racism protests to topple monuments to European colonizers and Confederate officials.

A public defender assigned to Martinez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The wounded man, identified by family as Native American climate activist Jacob Johns of Seattle, was in critical condition at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque awaiting surgery, said Mateo Peixinho, an organizer for the protest rally.

“We strongly believe this fits the definition of a hate crime and domestic terrorism due to the fact that he was wearing a MAGA hat and displaying instigating behavior all morning,” Peixinho said in a statement, referring to the “Make America Great Again” slogan used by former President Donald Trump.

Police said Martinez jumped a low wall and got into a scuffle with protesters before he pulled a handgun from his waistband, fired one shot and fled.

It was the latest violence around statues to Onate, the area’s first colonial governor, erected in the 1990s to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Spaniards.

The monuments have long outraged Native Americans and others who trace Onate’s brutal 1598 colonization to contemporary problems ranging from gender inequality to institutional racism.

Some ancestors of Spanish colonial settlers, known as Hispanos, say he should be celebrated as part of New Mexico’s Hispanic heritage.

(Reporting By Andrew Hay; Editing by Chris Reese and William Mallard)