Rio Arriba County sheriff’s officials said 23-year-old Ryan Martinez was taken into custody in connection with the shooting, which occurred outside the county’s offices in the town of Española, according to the Associated Press.
Pictures showed a man brandishing a firearm. The same man previously wore a red hat with the words “Make America Great Again.”
The wounded man was reportedly shot in the upper body and taken to a nearby hospital, but officials did not immediately provide further details. The victim identified himself to a photographer as an Indian The Albuquerque Journal shortly before the incident.
Authorities said the motive for the shooting was unclear.
According to local media, the incident occurred after protesters and counter-protesters gathered and lingered after the installation of a monument depicting Juan de Oñate was canceled.
Online footage showed a fight between protesters and the man in the MAGA hat, who then fell over a barricade, produced a gun and fired, causing those gathered to disperse.
At a brief press conference following the incident, County Sheriff Billy Merrifield told reporters: “The saddest thing about this is, once again, that we are dealing with another incident of gun violence.”
According to the AP, Merrifield added that he had expressed safety concerns to county commissioners about re-installing the statue in Española outside the county building and that he was grateful to the commissioners who decided against placing the statue.
Organizers of the protest against the statue’s installation said the incident showed the “legacy of violence and hatred” that the statue represents.
Jennifer Marley, a Red Nation organizer, told local station KOB4: “There’s so much precedent for telling people like this young man, the shooter, that they’re going to get off scot-free, and I firmly believe he will “Thought he would get away with it.”
Indian Collective organizer Janene Yazzie added: “This shows exactly what we are fighting for.
“We pointed out that this is not just about a statue, but also what it represents and the legacy of violence and hatred for which it forms a basis.”
The incident is the second shooting at a protest against an Oñate statue, the first occurring in June 2020 outside the Alburquerque Museum in Albuquerque when protesters attempted to tear down another depiction of the conquistador.
A confrontation broke out between protesters and a group of armed men trying to protect the bronze monument. Protesters then placed a chain around it and pulled it repeatedly.
Oñate, who arrived in what is now New Mexico in 1598, divided opinion among communities – celebrated by some as a cultural father figure but condemned by others for his brutality.
Among Native Americans, Oñate is known for ordering the right feet of 24 captured tribal warriors to be cut off after his soldiers stormed the “Sky City” on the mesa top of the Acoma Pueblo. This attack was triggered by the murder of Onate’s nephew.
In 1998, someone sawed off the statue’s right foot.