ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Shouting turned to shoving, and eventually gunfire. A former city council candidate is now facing charges for shooting a protester after a group of them were trying to remove a statue of Juan de Oñate in Old Town Monday night.
Cell phone video captured the chaos unfold. Albuquerque Police later identified the shooter as 31-year-old Steven Baca Junior. Police said Baca fired four rounds at a protester who’d just hit him with a skateboard.
Earlier in the evening, witnesses said a protest to remove a Juan de Oñate statue off Mountain in Old Town started peacefully. However, tensions quickly escalated between the crowd of protesters and a group of armed militiamen who identified themselves as members of the ‘New Mexico Civil Guard.’
According to their Facebook page, the New Mexico Civil Guard state their mission is to “Provide rapid local lawful response to emergency and dangerous situations, including Natural disaster, humanitarian crisis, civil disturbances, and civil defence.”
At one point, people shouted at one of the militia members to stop touching them near the statue. Protesters then used a chain to try and bring down the statue.
Meanwhile, cameras captured tensions rising between protesters and Baca, who was wearing a blue t-shirt and doesn’t appear to be a militia member. Cell phone video shows Baca standing around during the protest with his arms crossed, a gun not yet visible.
Then, Baca appears to yank a woman to the ground. That’s when a crowd starts after him. “Go home! Get his license plate!” Witnesses are heard shouting in the video. Witnesses told KRQE News 13 that the woman Baca threw to the ground hit her head on the pavement and that’s why the men chased after him.
One man is seen on video hitting Baca with a longboard. Baca shoots off some pepper spray while running away from the crowd. Police said after another man picked up the longboard and hit Baca again, that’s when Baca shot four rounds at the man, hitting him with multiple rounds in the torso.
Video shows the militia members surrounded Baca until the police arrived and arrested him. Baca is charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and a firearm enhancement.
State officials told KRQE News 13 that Baca does not have a concealed carry permit.