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New Mexico man charged with attempted murder for protest shooting

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New Mexico resident Ryan Martinez, 23, who was taken into custody as the suspected shooter, is seen in this undated handout. New Mexico State Police/Handout via REUTERS

A New Mexico man was charged with attempted murder for shooting a demonstrator at a protest over plans to reinstall a statue of a Spanish conquistador outside a civic complex in northern New Mexico, 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 the peaceful protest outside county offices in Espanola, state police said in a statement.

The return of the statue of 16th-century colonial ruler Juan de Onate was planned for Thursday but postponed by Rio Arriba County 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.

The wounded man, a Hopi Native man from Seattle, Washington, was in critical condition at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque awaiting surgery, said Mateo Peixinho, an organizer for the protest rally.

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

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

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 ruler, erected in New Mexico in the 1990s to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Spaniards.

A statue protester was shot in 2020 by a counter protester as demonstrators tried to pull down an Onate monument in Albuquerque, the state’s largest city.

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