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Suspected militia member accused of shooting man during New Mexico protest identified as former city council candidate

Members of the Clovis, N.M., Police Department's Special Weapons and Tactics team handcuff a U.S. airman during a hostile threat exercise at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., June 20, 2012. (Airman 1st Class Eboni Reece/U.S. Air Force)

The suspect accused of shooting a protester during a confrontation sparked by calls to remove a controversial statue in New Mexico has been identified as a city council candidate and the son of a former sheriff’s deputy.

Steven Baca was arrested on Tuesday after he allegedly opened fire during protests over a bronze rendering of Spanish conquistador Juan de Onate.

The shooting erupted a day earlier outside the Albuquerque Museum near Tiguex Park after the New Mexico Civil Guard — a heavily armed militia group — clashed with protesters trying to topple the controversial statue with a pickaxe and chainsaw.

Video obtained by the Albuquerque Journal allegedly shows Baca moving through the crowd and violently throwing a woman to the ground before demonstrators began to advance on him. According to the criminal complaint, the group “appeared to maliciously pursue” Baca tackled him to the ground.

One person hit him with a skateboard before he pulled out his weapon and opened fire.

Police said 39-year-old Scott Williams was shot several times in the torso. He was in critical but stable condition at the University of New Mexico Hospital.

The 31-year-old shooting suspect, a former City Council candidate, was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. In 2019, Baca ran for a council seat with a tough-on-crime platform, but lost in the six-way race.

During the campaign, he called local officials “complete wimps when it comes to fighting crime,” according to the Journal. He is also reportedly the son of a former Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy.

A witness on the scene of the shooting said he told officers about his connection to law enforcement.

He remained behind bars at the Metropolitan Detention Center early Tuesday.


© 2020 New York Daily News