It started as an attempt to remove a statue of New Mexico’s 16th-century colonial governor, Juan de Oñate, a despotic conquistador.
It ended with members of an armed vigilante group handcuffed and face down on the road, a protester in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds, and a one-time candidate for city council in custody.
Steven Ray Baca Jr., 31, was charged on Tuesday with intentionally firing a gun at a person—a third-degree felony—after the small protest in Albuquerque turned chaotic and violent on Monday night.
A criminal complaint says that bystander videos showed Baca, wearing black shorts and a blue T-shirt, trying to protect the statue from the protesters and “interacting with the crowd” in the area around the statue. “His specific type of interaction with the crowd is unknown at this time,” the complaint says.
An undercover detective, who was there to observe the protest, then saw Baca being pursued by several protesters, the complaint says. He “utilized pepper spray to douse the oncoming crowd” and tried to retreat, however the group appeared to “maliciously pursue Steven, with several of the crowd’s individuals physically striking Steven’s body with their hands and legs.”
One man then allegedly hit Baca with a skateboard and tackled him to the ground. A second man, dressed in a black hoodie, then picked up the skateboard and swung it at Steven’s head and upper body, the complaint says, citing cellphone videos taken by bystanders.
Baca then allegedly fired four shots, striking the man in the black hoodie in his torso.
The criminal complaint offers no details on why the crowd suddenly turned on Baca but multiple videos posted to social media appear to show him grabbing protesters as they tried to mount the statue, shoving protesters, and violently pushing at least one female protester to the ground.