‘This sculpture has now become an urgent matter of public safety…’
Update: A YouTube user provided Liberty Headlines with additional video footage showing the actual assault.
Original story below:
(Liberty Headlines) A 31-year-old man was arrested over a Monday night shooting that occurred as rioters attempted to raze a statue of a Spanish conquistador in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Long-simmering tensions over nationwide race riots came to a head as protesters in New Mexico’s largest city tried to tear down the bronze statue of a Juan de Oñate outside the Albuquerque Museum.
Members of the New Mexico Civil Guard, a self-described civilian militia group, showed up to protect the statue.
Detectives arrested Stephen Ray Baca, son of a former Bernalillo County sheriff, and jailed him on suspicion of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
It’s not clear if Baca was there with the militia group as he appeared to be dressed differently from other members.
Gun vs. Skateboard
According to preliminary filings, Baca had been among those trying to protect the statue when protesters “appeared to maliciously pursue him,” the Albuquerque Police Department said.
Video streamed on Facebook Live showed protesters hitting Baca, a former Albuquerque City Council candidate, with what police described as a longboard skateboard and punching him before he opened fire with a handgun.
However, in a statement posted on Twitter, Albuquerque Police Chief Michael Geier said investigators had received prior “reports about vigilante groups possibly instigating this violence.”
Message from APD Chief Michael Geier: “We are receiving reports about vigilante groups possibly instigating this violence. If this is true will be holding them accountable to the fullest extent of the law, including federal hate group designation and prosecution.”
— Albuquerque Police Department (@ABQPOLICE) June 16, 2020
The video showed the two groups engaging peacefully and respectfully for nearly an hour before protesters wrapped a chain around the statue and began tugging on it while chanting “Tear it down.”
Things became more heated as a protester repeatedly swung a pickax at the base of the statue, prompting the militia members to intervene.
Moments later, a few gunshots rang out down the street and people yelled that someone had been shot.
After the shooting, other armed people encircled Baca in an apparent attempt to protect him, the video showed.
Police during the confrontation used tear gas and flash bangs to protect the officers who intervened. Without incident, they were able to detain Baca and the armed people who had surrounded him, said Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos.
Gallegos said the patriots were disarmed and taken into custody for questioning as police worked to secure the scene. On Tuesday, detectives were still investigating the incident with the help of the FBI.
Online court records did not list an attorney for Baca who could comment on his behalf.
The man who was shot was hospitalized Monday night in critical but stable condition, Gallegos said.
A Growing Rift
The shooting prompted the city to announce that the statue would be removed until officials could determine the next steps.
“Our hearts go out the victim, his family and witnesses whose lives were needlessly threatened tonight,” Democrat Mayor Tim Keller said in a statement.
“This sculpture has now become an urgent matter of public safety,” he said.
Keller also said in a press conference Tuesday that he planned to take the “Obama mayor’s pledge” to hold the city accountable for concerns over police brutality.
That initiative included turning over the leadership of the department.
More than a dozen innocent victims died during recent riots promoted by groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa, which came in response to the Memorial Day killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd while in police custody.
Since then, the outrage has spawned a wave of demands from leftist radicals seeking to capitalize on their “moment.”
Efforts now have expanded into new areas of political activism, such as the “defund the police” movement.
In the absence of a discernible law-enforcement response, several well-armed militias have organized to maintain the peace according to the provisions outlined by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.
Prior to Monday’s shooting, there had been no known reports of violence between the two groups of opposing protesters.
Yet, the rift between far-left, pro-anarchy factions and right-wing supporters of law-and-order has grown deeper as rioters have engaged in acts of felonious mischief with little recourse.
As they did previously during Obama-era race riots, racially motivated activists have insisted on censoring anything with ties to slavery or the Confederacy.
In addition to statues being destroyed, NASCAR announced it would ban the Confederate flag, HBO said it was pulling the classic movie Gone with the Wind, and the music group Lady Antebellum said it was changing its name.
The activists, whose desire for destruction has yet to be sated, are now courting aggrieved Native Americans—despite there being no immediate connection between them and the current concerns over police brutality and “systemic” racism within the African–American community.
Several statues of Genoan explorer Christopher Columbus have been among those targeted.
Oñate, who arrived in present-day New Mexico in 1598, is celebrated as a cultural father figure in communities along the Upper Rio Grande that trace their ancestry to Spanish settlers. But he’s also reviled for his brutality among Native Americans.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press