TUES: ABQ Man Charged In Shooting Of Protestor Over Spanish Colonizer Statue, +More

Jun 16, 2020

ABQ Man Arrested For Shooting Demonstrator During Protest Over Spanish Colonizer’s Statue,  - By Hannah Colton, Associated Press

A 31-year-old former Albuquerque City Council candidate was charged with a third-degree felony after shooting a man last night as protesters tried to tear down a bronze statue of Spanish colonizer Juan de Onate. Police said Stephen Ray Baca was arrested and jailed on suspicion of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. 

The victim, Scott Williams, suffered multiple gunshots to the torso, and is hospitalized in critical condition and expected to survive, his parents say. 

The violence broke out after a group of militia men carrying assault-style weapons antagonized people who wanted to take down the monument. As protesters pulled on the statue with a chain, videos show Baca, shoved a young woman roughly to the ground. He ran and was chased and hit with a skateboard. He maced one person, somebody tackled him, and then he fired his gun, striking Williams from behind. 

Police also took several members of the New Mexico Civil Guard into custody for questioning, they said. 

APD says the FBI is assisting with the investigation. 

The District Attorney’s office today put a call out for eyewitnesses to the shooting and the assault on the young woman that preceded it. 

City officials removed Onate from the monument in Old Town today. 

ABQ Man Arrested For Shooting Demonstrator During Protest Over Spanish Colonizer’s Statue - Hannah Colton KUNM News, Associated Press

Albuquerque police say Stephen Ray Baca was arrested in connection with the shooting of a man last night in Albuquerque’s Old Town, as protesters tried to tear down a bronze statue of Spanish colonizer Juan de Oñate. APD said the victim is in critical condition but is expected to survive. 

The violence broke out after a group of militia men carrying assault-style weapons antagonized people who wanted to take down the monument. As protesters pulled on the statue with a chain, Baca shoved a young woman roughly to the ground. He ran and was chased and hit with a skateboard. He maced one person, somebody tackled him, and then he fired his gun, seriously wounding a protester. 

A criminal complaint said the victim, Scott Williams, suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the torso. Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos, said one man was shot and hospitalized Monday night in critical but stable condition.

Police charged Baca with aggravated battery and took several members of the New Mexico Civil Guard into custody for questioning. It’s unclear whether Baca is affiliated with the militia group. APD says detectives are investigating the shooting with the help of the FBI. 

After detaining the heavily armed men, police used tear gas and flash bangs, and fired non-lethal rounds at protestors, none of whom were brandishing any weapons. 

The New Mexico Civil Guard and other militia groups have showed up at multiple peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in the past few weeks.

Mayor Tim Keller says the city will remove the statue in Old Town for public safety reasons, “until the appropriate civic institutions can determine next steps.”

The violence Monday night came just hours after activists in northern New Mexico celebrated the removal of another likeness of Oñate that was on public display at a cultural center in the community of Alcalde. Rio Arriba County officials removed it to safeguard it from possible damage and to avoid civil unrest ahead of a scheduled protest.

Monument To Spanish Conqueror Removed In New Mexico - By Cedar Attanasio And Morgan Lee Associated Press

Authorities have removed a bronze statue of Spanish conqueror Juan de Oñate in northern New Mexico amid a new wave of criticism of the memorial as an affront to indigenous people and an obstacle to greater racial harmony.

A forklift pried the massive bronze statue from a concrete pedestal to the sound of cheers. Oñate arrived in present-day New Mexico in 1598.

He 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 toward Native Americans.

To Native Americans, Oñate is known for having ordered the right feet cut off of 24 captive tribal warriors that was precipitated by the killing of Onate's nephew. In 1998, someone sawed the right foot off the statue.

Removal of the statue was followed by a few heated roadside discussions about local colonial history, under the gaze of a half-dozen sheriff's deputies from Rio Arriba County.

Elena Ortiz, who organized a protest at the site for Monday night, said many people have grown uncomfortable with the Oñate statue.

A separate demonstration in Albuquerque was aimed at the removal of another Oñate likeness that is part of a caravan of Spanish colonists set in bronze outside a city museum.

Monuments to European conquerors and colonists around the world are being pulled down amid an intense re-examination of racial injustices in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of police.

Albuquerque city officials announced Saturday they will convene a council of community leaders and artists to consider the concerns about the public art piece as they look for "creative solutions."

Navajo Resumes Weekend Lockdowns As Arizona Virus Cases Rise - Associated Press

The Navajo Nation is planning more weekend lockdowns because of coronavirus cases that are increasing off the reservation, most notably in Arizona.

Tribal President Jonathan Nez made the announcement Tuesday in a virtual town hall. He cited Arizona, which hit an alarmingly high new daily number of cases, in urging people to stay home.

He says a second surge on the reservation would put enormous pressure on its health care system and workers. Residents of the Navajo Nation are still under daily nighttime curfews.

The weekend lockdown starts at sundown Friday and ends at sunrise Monday. Tribal police have been citing people for violating the lockdowns.

New Mexico Courts Set Deadline For Ending Cases Before TrialAssociated Press

A new order issued in response to the continuing coronavirus outbreak requires that criminal plea agreements and civil settlements agreements be filed in New Mexico's state court system at least five days before trials are scheduled to start.

An order by Supreme Court Chief Justice Judith Nakamura says the deadline will help protect the health of safety of prospective jurors and others who otherwise would gather in courthouses in anticipation of a trial starting.

The order comes as the court system resumes holding trials and says the five-day requirement takes effect July 1. 

New Mexico reported 88 additional COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to 9,933. Seven more people died as well, for a total of 447 deaths to date.

There were 27 new cases in Bernalillo County. There are now 573 cases among state and federal detainees at the Otero County Prison Facility in southern New Mexico.

New Mexico May Require Independent Probes Of Police Violence - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Leading Republican legislators in New Mexico say they won't stand in the way of initiatives to require police body cameras and prohibit chokeholds.

Republican House minority leader Jim Townsend and GOP House whip Rod Montoya said Monday that most public safety protocol in New Mexico agencies already prohibit chokeholds and voiced qualified support for mandatory police body cameras.

Additional proposed policing reforms would steer investigations of deadly police enforcement actions away from reluctant local prosecutors and toward specially appointed prosecutors with greater independence.

Legislators are at odds over plans to close off direct public access to the Statehouse as a coronavirus precaution when the Legislature convenes on Thursday for a special session to rewrite the state budget amid a rapid decline in state government income.

The governor and the state attorney general would be notified within 24 hours of all police actions resulting in significant injuries or death under the proposal.

Montoya said his only hesitation regarding mandatory body cameras might be in mandating new spending by cash-strapped state and local government. Townsend had no reservations.

Judge: U.S. Must Release $679M In Tribal Virus Relief Funds - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

A federal judge says the U.S. Treasury Department must release $679 million in coronavirus relief to tribes that it intended to withhold over a court challenge. 

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ruled late Monday that the department doesn't have discretion to hold back the money. 

The funding is part of a federal relief package that included $8 billion for tribes and was supposed to go out by late April. 

Mehta ordered the Treasury Department to disburse it among tribal governments by Wednesday. He says continued delay in the face of an exceptional public health crisis no longer is acceptable.

Luna Community College President Placed On Leave - Las Vegas Optic,  Associated Press

Luna Community College has placed its president on leave and will not renew his contact. 

The Las Vegas Optic reports the Luna Community College Board of Trustees voted last week to not renew President Rolando Rael's contract at the end of the month. 

The board also placed him on paid administrative leave for the remainder of his contract. 

The move comes only a year and a half after Rael was hired. 

Rael was not among the top candidates for the president's position. 

A review committee involved in the candidate search spoke out against the decision to hire Rael instead of other potential candidates identified in a nationwide search.

Board Chairwoman Phyllis Martinez says the college wants to go in another direction.

FBI Faces Wrongful Death Lawsuit From 2017 School Shooting - Farmington Daily Times, Associated Press

The mother of one of the 2017 Aztec High School shooting victims is suing the federal government, claiming the FBI was negligent. 

The Farmington Daily Times reports Jamie Lattin filed the lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court over the death of Lattin's daughter, Casey Jordan Marquez. Marquez and classmate Francisco "Paco" Fernandez were killed shortly after school started on Dec. 7, 2017. 

The 21-year-old gunman, William Atchison, ambushed Fernandez in a bathroom and then encountered Marquez in the hallway. 

This is the second wrongful death lawsuit that Lattin has filed. 

In the new lawsuit, the complaint alleges that Marquez died of negligent acts and omissions by FBI employees.

According to the lawsuit, the agency received information that the shooter posted online, seeking advice on acquiring a cheap assault rifle to commit a mass shooting at Aztec High.

The agents who interviewed the shooter concluded he was just "posting these comments in jest" and that he "enjoyed acting as an internet troll" and had no plans to obtain a firearm.

The lawsuit claims the investigation closed following that interview.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.

NMSU, ExxonMobil To Partner On Produced Water Research - Associated Press

New Mexico State University says it has signed an agreement with ExxonMobil to coordinate research focused on wastewater produced during oil and gas operations. 

University Chancellor Dan Arvizu says the partnership offers an opportunity to leverage the expertise of researchers at the school and those in the industry to find solutions to the nation's water challenges. 

The university also has an agreement with the state Environment Department to advance scientific and technological solutions related to the treatment and reuse of produced water. The work is helping to inform state officials as they draft rules for the handling, transport, storage, and treatment of produced water.

According to state data, every barrel of oil produced results in an average of four barrels of produced water. One barrel equals 42 gallons. In 2018, the industry in New Mexico generated more than 42 billion gallons of produced water.


Albuquerque Brewery Unveils 'Black Is Beautiful' Beer - KOB-TV, Associated Press

An Albuquerque brewery says it wants to fight racism with a new beer. 

KOB-TV reports La Cumbre Brewing Company will soon be offering "Black is Beautiful," an imperial stout, with proceeds going to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico. 

La Cumbre Brewing Creative Director Cory Campbell says the new beer is going to be dark and rich and malty. 

Campbell says the brewery signed onto a nationwide collaborative project because of the vital message it spreads. 

Campbell says the company will brew 15 barrels of "Black is Beautiful." That comes out to about 3,000 cans.

The move comes as companies and corporations sign on to initiatives to support the Black Lives Matter movement amid criticism over hiring and lack of diversity in management.

New Mexico Begins Tribal Outreach Campaign Amid Coronavirus Associated Press

New Mexico health officials have teamed  with Native American cartoonist Ricardo Caté to increase awareness about the coronavirus pandemic.

Caté is known for using humor to bring attention to serious topics. His cartoon, "Without Reservation," is published daily in the Santa Fe New Mexican and The Taos News.

The latest statewide data shows Native Americans account for more than 54% of all positive cases. In all, New Mexico has 9,845 confirmed cases, while the death toll stands at 440.

State health officials say tribal communities are particularly vulnerable to the new coronavirus because they have higher rates of diabetes, asthma, cancer and hypertension.

The Behavioral Health Services Division of the state Human Services Department and the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department partnered to create the campaign.

Officials say the goal is to use culturally relevant messaging on how tribal members can take precautions to protect their communities, families and elders.

Public service announcements will air on Native American radio stations and banners will be put up at water and food pick-up stations and testing areas. Fliers also will be distributed at each pueblo, tribe or nation in New Mexico, and posts will be made on social media.

Rescuers Relieved After Legendary $2M Treasure Found - By Mead Gruver, Associated Press

People who've had to rescue imperiled treasure seekers in the Rocky Mountains say they're glad to hear that the legendary Fenn treasure is found.

Retired Santa Fe art and antiquities dealer Forrest Fenn announced June 6 that a man who doesn't want to be named recently found the estimated $2 million chest containing coins, gold nuggets and other valuables.

Fenn wrote a cryptic poem he said led to the chest he hid in 2010. Fenn isn't saying where the treasure was hidden but several people seeking it have been rescued in Dinosaur National Monument on the Colorado-Utah state line.

Fenn, a decorated U.S. Air Force fighter pilot from the Vietnam War and a retired Santa Fe art and antiquities dealer, announced June 6 that a man from “back East” he didn’t know — and who didn’t want to be named — had found the antique chest containing coins, gold nuggets and other valuables.