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December 9, 2023

1 person injured after man opens fire at a statue protest in New Mexico

1 person injured after man opens fire at a statue protest in New Mexico

A man was in custody after gunfire burst out at a protest of a controversial statue in Española, New Mexico, on Thursday, according to video of the shooting.

The shooting happened after an altercation outside the Rio Arriba County Clerk’s Office, where a statue of Juan de Oñate was supposed to have been rededicated, NBC affiliate KOB of Albuquerque reported. A suspect was arrested, state police said.

A Rio Arriba County sheriff’s representative identified the suspect as Ryan Martinez, 23.

Demonstrators protest the reinstallation of a 16th-century New Mexico conquistador statue at the Rio Arriba County building on Sept. 28, 2023 in Espanola, N.M.Brandon Bell / Getty Images

One person was taken to the hospital and was stable, the sheriff’s office said. The extent of the person’s injuries was not clear.

The rededication was postponed indefinitely in the interest of public safety, the sheriff said, but some people gathered outside Thursday morning anyway.

A motive has not been identified, and no charges have been filed.

Witnesses told KOB that the conflict before the shooting involved a counterprotester’s charging at some of the people who had gathered to celebrate the postponement of the rededication of Oñate’s statue.

The shooter was described as a young man in his 20s wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat and a teal shirt, according to KOB. The sheriff’s office was not able to confirm whether Martinez wore such a hat at the time of the shooting.

The Rio Arriba statue was removed in 2020 from another location in the county, according to The Albuquerque Journal. One person was shot at a protest over an Oñate statue in Albuquerque’s Old Town in 2020 as protesters and counterprotesters clashed over whether it should be removed, the Journal reported.

Oñate was the first European conquistador to colonize New Mexico, and many in the state have called for his statues to be taken down over the violent history of colonialism, NPR reported three years ago.

Doha Madani

Doha Madani is a senior breaking news reporter for NBC News. Pronouns: she/her.

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