Video From Scene: Gunman Arrested After Shooting Man At Albuquerque Protest
The Washington Post reports that on June 15, four gunshots interrupted demonstrators’ efforts to tear down a statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
- Calls to remove Oñate statues in New Mexico “mirror similar calls to tear down Confederate monuments amid a rise in Black Lives Matter demonstrations following the killing of George Floyd, who died as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes,” the Post reports.
- The shooting occurred after tense standoffs between crowds demonstrating against police racism and a counterprotest group composed of members of the self-identified New Mexico Civil Guard.
- The New Mexico Civil Guard describes itself as a “militia.” Members dressed in camouflage apparel and carried signs stating that “All lives matter” as well as firearms, including rifles.
- Individuals from the two groups verbally clashed during the hours prior to the shooting, often in very close quarters and with allegations of physical altercation.
- According to video obtained by KBO4, the militia members appear to be attempting to halt demonstrators’ attempts to tear down the statue. One demonstrator can be seen swinging a pickaxe at the statue’s base. Someone, presumably a demonstrator, accuses the militia of wrongfully touching someone and shouts, “Get your hands off.”
Police have not confirmed whether or not the gunman implicated in the shooting, Stephen Ray Baca, charged with aggravated battery, is connected to the militia.
- The shooting itself happened when a man in a blue shirt, Baca, apparently riled the crowd. People shouted, and Baca took a few steps back. A demonstrator swung a skateboard at him and hit him in the shoulder. Baca walked backward away, and he and the crowd appeared to continue to exchange shouts.
- Someone in the crowd repeatedly shouted for someone to “get his license plate,” and some members of the crowd followed after Baca as he continued to move away.
- One person then tackled. Baca to the ground.
- As he tries to stand up and three others try to hit him again, Baca appears to draw a handgun. Someone shouts, “He’s gonna… kill you.” Baca fires four shots, shooting one person and scattering the crowd.
According to a video reportedly taken seconds after the shooting, a few New Mexico Civil Guard members, each carrying a gun (typically a rifle), gathered in the area around Baca.
- One of the first two to gather holds a hand out toward the demonstrators, apparently warding them away from Baca.
- One man, carrying a semi-automatic rifle and wearing a military-style helmet, kicked the handgun away from Baca and stoof with one foot on top of it.
- Some demonstrators shouted, “Get out of here” and “we don’t want you here.” When one (seemingly the cameraperson) said to a militia member, “You just murdered somebody,” the figure responded, gesturing to himself, “No, we didn’t,” and then gestured to Baca, his next words inaudible.
When police arrived on the scene, they reportedly used tear gas to clear the crowd. Officers arrested Baca as well as several individuals from the New Mexico Civil Guard.
Police have not released any other information about Baca, nor have they said whether they think Baca is connected to the armed “militia.”
- Members of the New Mexico Civil Guard have appeared at multiple protests over the last few weeks, the Post reports. Some told the Eastern New Mexico News that their goal is to protect local businesses from damage during protests.
- Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) called on the Department of Justice to investigate whether the Civil Guard is connected to the shooting.
In a statement on Twitter, Albuquerque Police Chief Michael Geier affirmed that law enforcement would investigate any group that stoked violence at a protest.
We are receiving reports about vigilante groups possibly instigating this violence. If this is true[, we] will be holding them accountable to the fullest extent of the law, including federal hate group designation and prosecution.
Watch the video below. Viewer discretion is advised.