Man Claims Self-Defense in Shooting at Statue Protest
A New Mexico man is facing charges of attempted murder after claiming self-defense in the shooting of a Native American activist during a protest. The incident occurred during a demonstration against the reinstallation of a statue of a 16th-century Spanish colonial ruler.
Peaceful Protest Turns Violent
Ryan Martinez, a 23-year-old from Sandia Park, was charged with attempted murder for shooting Jacob Johns, a 42-year-old from Spokane, Washington. The shooting took place on September 28 in Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico.
The protest was organized to oppose the reinstallation of the statue of Juan de Onate, which had been taken down in 2020 during nationwide anti-racism protests. County commissioners had postponed the ceremony due to safety concerns following protests.
Self-Defense or Provocation?
Martinez’s lawyer, Nicole Moss, claimed that her client acted in self-defense. She argued that Martinez was peacefully documenting the event when he was attacked by protesters who disagreed with his presence, particularly because he wore a red hat with the slogan “Make America Great Again” associated with former President Donald Trump.
Video footage presented during the hearing showed a protester grabbing Martinez and pushing him against a low wall. Martinez then drew a handgun from his waistband and fired one shot at Johns, claiming it was in self-defense.
Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Dennis testified that prior to the shooting, Martinez had cursed at a police officer and the protesters when they approached him. Protest organizer Mateo Peixinho stated that he questioned Martinez about his presence at the event before the shooting occurred. According to Peixinho, Martinez expressed frustration and anger towards the county commissioners for allowing a few Indian protesters to disrupt their plans.
Injuries and Historical Tension
Johns’ mother, Laverne McGrath, expressed concern for her son’s critical condition at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.
The shooting highlights the ongoing tension surrounding statues of Juan de Onate, erected in the 1990s to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Spaniards. While some Hispanos, descendants of Spanish colonial settlers, argue that Onate should be celebrated as part of New Mexico’s Hispanic heritage, Native Americans and others view him as a symbol of brutal colonization.
As the case unfolds, the aftermath of the shooting serves as a reminder of the ongoing debate over historical statues and their significance in contemporary society.