ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – Prosecutors are now trying to prove the shooting at an Oñate statue protest in Española was a hate crime. The accused shooter, 23-year-old Ryan Martinez, faced Judge Jason Lidyard today for his arraignment.
The shooting took place on Thursday, September 28, outside of a Rio Arriba County building where officials had planned to place a statue of Juan de Oñate. A video shows tensions escalating between protestors and anti-protestors; then, the video shows Martinez pulling out a gun and shooting one shot.
Martinez is accused of shooting Jacob Johns somewhere in the “upper torso area near the chest,” according to Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Major Lorenzo Aguilar. After multiple surgeries, Johns is now out of the hospital and is recovering at home.
Martinez has been charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and reckless driving; however, those charges now include a hate crime enhancement.
The hate crime enhancement was added because Martinez is accused of shooting Johns during a prayer ceremony. Johns’ lawyer, John Day, explains, “What the hate crime means is that the prosecutors believe there is evidence to support the idea that the crime was committed based on some type of hatred or bias.”
A witness who KRQE News 13 spoke to after the shooting told the station that she heard racist remarks coming from the crowd. “There was a group of men who were wearing MAGA hats who were saying inappropriate and racist things to some of our supporters,” said Janene Yazzie.
Day believes those witness statements helped to get the hate crime enhancement added. “What underlies this, in Jacob’s belief, is that the shooter was acting motivated by hatred or bias toward Indigenous people and the religion that Indigenous people were practicing that day,” says Day.
During Martinez’s arraignment hearing, his lawyers claimed he shot in self-defense and that he had a valid permit to conceal carry. However, Johns’ lawyer stated, “We think that’s irrelevant to the issue. The point is that he brought a gun, concealed or otherwise, to a peaceful Indigenous prayer event, and the facts show that he chose to engage in violence.”
Day added, “He could have just walked away. He could have kept his gun in his holster. He could have kept his gun in his car, but the shooter chose to pull his gun and shoot an unarmed person.” Johns’ lawyer is hoping that the case gets picked up by the federal court system.
Martinez pleaded not guilty to all charges and has a trial date set for May.