ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Calling it an “unacceptable act of violence,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller denounced a shooting that took place near a protest over a statue of Juan de Oñate. The Mayor says the investigation into what happened will also soon be turned over the New Mexico State Police.
The comments came during a Tuesday news conference hours after city crews removed the statue at the center of Monday’s protest and shooting. In his remarks, Keller blamed the shooting mainly on a single “agitator” that was part of the crowd gathered near 19th and Mountain, hours after a peaceful protest.
“The shooting last night in Old Town at the Oñate sculpture was horrific and unacceptable act of violence, this is something that despite all of that dialogue, should never happen,” Keller said. “Despite the peaceful and meaningful vigil that occurred before, a smaller group remained with very different intentions.”
The shooting happened shortly before 9 p.m. Monday near the Oñate sculpture outside of the Albuquerque Museum. Albuquerque Police say the shooter, 31-year old Steven Baca is charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Cell phone video shows Baca fired a gun at another man in the course of a fight.
Before the shooting, a peaceful protest and prayer vigil took place in nearby Tigeux Park around 4 p.m. Hours after that vigil, a crowd began to gather around the Oñate statue. Cell phone videos shows some people in the crowd started trying to pull the statue down after 8 p.m. Amid the commotion surrounding the statue, a witness video shows Baca appear to pull a woman to the ground. Video shows Baca and several other people fighting while moving away from the statue when shots were fired.
Reacting to the shooting, Keller commented on the presence of what he called “outside groups” at protests. The Mayor says those groups are the ones causing problems at the protests seen over the recent weeks in various parts of Albuquerque.
“These groups are often at protests and they have been for quite some time, attempting to prop up white supremacy, trying to intimidate those speaking out, and they are armed with weapons,” Keller said. “We want to reiterate that weapons have no place in public actions and protests.”
Albuquerque Police confiscated more than 20 guns off of four people at the protest Monday night. Police say they also seized more than 30 ammo magazine in the process.
APD is expected to hand the case off to New Mexico State Police and the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office for continued investigation. With that, other people could be identified and charged for their role in what happened, but so far, only Baca has been charged. The DA’s Office says it’s looking to speak with any other witnesses from the scene of Monday’s shooting.
The statue that sparked the protest has since been removed from the site. The city says the artist who created the statue waived his right to a typical 90-day waiting period for the removal of public art. The city says the waiver came after the artist behind the statue contacted the city, requesting that the sculpture be temporarily removed.