A man pictured wearing a Maga hat has been arrested in New Mexico for shooting a protester during a demonstration against the installation of a statue of controversial Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate.
The suspected shooter, identified as 23-year-old Ryan Martinez, earlier swore at protesters and was told by law enforcement officers to leave.
Video captured by onlookers showed a man jumping a short wall and heading toward the crowd as others grabbed him. That’s when he pulled a gun from his waistband and fired a single shot before running off.
One person could be heard saying: “Help me! Help me!” after he was shot in the upper torso. The wounded man was taken to a nearby hospital and has not yet been identified.
More than 20 law enforcement vehicles responded at the scene and a suspect was taken into custody. The motive for the shooting was unclear, said the officials.
Oñate has been a controversial figure in New Mexico’s history for generations, with activists targeting statues and other likenesses of the Spaniard for his brutal treatment of Native Americans during his country’s conquest.
In Pictures: Protest against the installation of New Mexico conquistador statue
07:00 , Namita Singh
County sheriff expressed public safety concerns over statue installation
06:32 , Namita Singh
Prior to Thursday’s shooting, county authorities had already made the decision to postpone the installation of a statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate due to public safety concerns.
Sheriff Billy Merrifield said he was grateful to county commissioners who decided against putting up the statue. However, despite the postponement, people turned up at the venue anyway with banners that read “not today Oñate,” and “celebrate resistance not conquistadores.”
Expressing distress over the shooting incident, the sheriff said: “Once again, the saddest part about this is we have another incident of gun violence.”
He declined to take any questions, saying New Mexico State Police were handling the crime scene and the investigation. The police also did not issue any statement regarding charges brought against the suspect in custody, who has been named as 23-year-old Ryan Martinez.
A dispatcher, who wasn’t authorised to release any information, said additional details were expected to be released later on Thursday night or Friday.
In video: Scuffle and shooting at New Mexico protest over installation of Spanish conquistador statue
06:09 , Namita Singh
Who is controversial Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate
05:57 , Namita Singh
Chaos erupted on Thursday as a gunshot rang out during a protest in northern New Mexico where officials had planned to install a statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate, an event that county officials had already postponed anticipating that tempers would flare.
Oñate has been a controversial figure in New Mexico’s history for generations, with activists targeting the statue and other likenesses of the Spaniard for his oppressive and sometimes brutal treatment of Native Americans during his country’s conquest of what is now the Southwestern United States.
Some Hispanics have pointed to the statue as a symbol of their heritage.
Oñate, who arrived in present-day New Mexico in 1598, has divided opinion among communities – celebrated by some as a cultural father figure, but condemned by others for his brutality.
To Native Americans, Oñate is known for having ordered the right feet cut off of 24 captive tribal warriors after his soldiers stormed the Acoma Pueblo’s mesa-top “sky city.” That attack was supposedly precipitated by the killing of Onate’s nephew.
In 1998, someone sawed the right foot off the statue.
The shooting incident in New Mexico is the second shooting at a protest over an Oñate statue. The first of which occurred in June 2020 outside the Alburquerque Museum, in Albuquerque, when demonstrators attempted to tear down another depiction of the conquistador down.
A confrontation had erupted between protesters and a group of armed men who were trying to protect the bronze monument. Protesters then wrapped a chain around it and tugged repeatedly on it.
What happened at the site of shooting?
05:40 , Namita Singh
The shooting in New Mexico occurred when protesters and counter-protesters lingered after the cancellation of a planned installation of a monument depicting Juan de Oñate.
The demonstrators arrived Tuesday and pitched tents. They placed offerings on and around the empty pedestal to Oñate: pottery, corn stalks, votive candles, a basket of vegetables. Banners read, “not today Oñate,” and “celebrate resistance not conquistadores”.
”The man who would later draw and fire a gun swore in arguments with protesters and was told by law enforcement officers to leave. Video captured by onlookers showed the man jumping a short wall and heading toward the crowd as others grabbed him.
Footage online showed a struggle between protesters and the man wearing the Maga hat, who then fell over a barricade, produced a gun and fired, causing those gathered to scatter.
The shooting occurred just outside the doors of county offices, which include sheriff offices. More than 20 law enforcement vehicles responded, crowding an Española city roadway that overlooks the Upper Rio Grande Valley, and a suspect was immediately taken into custody.
Suspect in Maga hat arrested after protester shot during demonstration
05:15 , Namita Singh
Rio Arriba County sheriff’s officials said Ryan Martinez, 23, was taken into custody in connection with the shooting, which took place outside county offices in the city of Española.
Pictures and video showed a man brandishing a firearm. The same man was earlier wearing a red hat bearing the words “Make America Great Again”.
My colleague Mike Bedigan reports:
Man shot as tempers flare over statue of Spanish conquistador
05:08 , Namita Singh
Chaos erupted Thursday as a gunshot rang out during a protest in northern New Mexico where officials had planned to install a statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Onate, an event that county officials had already postponed anticipating that tempers would flare.
One man was struck by the gunfire and rushed to the hospital.
The victim, whose identity has not yet been revealed, could be heard saying, “Help me! Help me!” and “I can’t breathe,” after he got shot.
He earlier identified himself as Native American to a photographer from The Albuquerque Journal shortly before the incident.
Authorities said that a motive for the shooting was unclear.
04:23 , Namita Singh
Welcome to The Independent’s blog for Friday, 29 September 2023 where we provide the latest updates on a shooting in New Mexico that took place during the installation of a statue of controversial Spanish conquistador Juan de Onate.
Elaine Hadley is a dedicated journalist covering the ever-evolving landscape of U.S. news. With a keen interest in politics and a commitment to uncovering the truth, she provides insightful commentary and in-depth analysis on domestic issues. When not reporting, Elaine enjoys exploring the diverse cultures and landscapes of the United States.