New Mexico man charged with attempted murder in shooting at protest over Spanish conquistador statue

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico man was charged Friday with attempted murder in a shooting that wounded one person at a protest over plans to install a statue of a Spanish conquistador outside government offices in the city of Española.

Defendant Ryan David Martinez, from Sandia Park, was read the felony charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon at his first appearance in municipal court. No plea was entered.

A temporary public defender assigned to Martinez could not be reached immediately by phone and didn’t respond to voice messages. An apparent relative of the defendant answered the phone but declined to comment or confirm her family relation.

Martinez was arrested Thursday after chaos erupted and a shot was fired during protests in Española about plans to install a bronze likeness of conquistador Juan de Oñate, who is both revered and reviled for his role in establishing early settlements along the Upper Rio Grande starting in 1598.

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Installation of the statue was planned for Thursday but was canceled by county officials amid security concerns. The statue of Oñate in armor on horseback was commissioned in the 1990s and installed near Española amid fanfare and resentment. The statute was taken down in 2020 during a national movement for racial justice that sought to topple countless monuments.

The victim of Thursday’s shooting, a 42-year-old man, was flown to an Albuquerque hospital for treatment of a wound to the abdomen. His condition was not immediately available from state police overseeing the shooting investigation.

A warrant for Martinez’s arrest includes testimony from witnesses who described an otherwise peaceful protest Thursday and the arrival of several men in “MAGA” hats. One witness told state police that protesters’ children were gathered together near a makeshift shrine at the pedestal intended for the Oñate statue, amid misgivings about safety, and that “peacekeepers” blocked Martinez’s way from entering the area.

Police reviewed video of the confrontation as recordings circulated on social media.

“Ryan is seen attempting to rush the shrine and being stopped by a group of men,” Officer Shane Faulkner says in the narrative. “As Ryan (retreated) back over the short wall, a man can be heard saying, ‘Let him go.’ The group of men do not try to pursue Ryan, and Ryan pulled his handgun from his waistband and shoots.”

Martinez was transported to a detention center in the Rio Arriba County government seat of Tierra Amarilla. A hearing on possible terms of pretrial detention is scheduled next week.

A pretrial services report showed no prior convictions for Martinez and no prior failures to appear in court.


Associated Press writer Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque contributed to this story.

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