Steven Ray Baca Jr., a former city council candidate and son of a sheriff, was identified as the man accused of shooting another man at an Albuquerque, New Mexico, protest over a statue of a conquistador.
The complaint says cell phone footage shows that Baca was at the scene “in what appears to be a manner in which to protect the statue from protesters.” He was also recorded “interacting with the crowd.”
Later on, an undercover police detective “observed several members from what appeared to be the main protesting group pursuing Steven on foot while he backed away from them, utilizing pepper spray to douse the oncoming crowd.”
The complaint describes the shooting, saying:
A second male is observed holding the end of the longboard with two hands and swinging it toward the area of Steven’s head and upper body. At this time, a series of gunshots are heard, and the longboard is dropped to the ground. Steven is recorded as holding a black-colored semi-automatic handgun and firing several shots. The male dressed in black…who had struck Steven with the longboard suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his torso and was immediately rendered aid by other bystanders in the crowd.
The complaint says that “after discharging the weapon,” Baca was seen “manipulating the firearm before placing it on the ground.”
Baca is accused of having “knowingly and intentionally discharged the firearm at the victim during the protest regarding the attempted removal of the Don Juan de Onate statue,” according to KRQE.
Baca was a 2019 city council candidate and the son of a former sheriff’s official, according to KUNM.org and the Albuquerque Journal.
Here’s the jail booking sheet for Baca:
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Complaint Says Baca Was Struck by Members of the Crowd Before the Shooting
The complaint describes how members of the crowd physically struck Baca before the shooting.
The complaint alleges:
Steven continued to retreat away from the crowd while walking quickly backward and holding up his hand with his palm toward the crowd as if to separate himself from it. The group appeared to maliciously pursue Steven, with several of the crowd’s individuals physically striking Steven’s body with their hands and legs. Steven was struck by a male individual with what appears to be a green in color longboard.
Baca declined to give a statement to authorities.
Dramatic videos captured the sound of shooting and a scuffle on the street. The shooting erupted after a tense scene between the New Mexico Civil Guard, a civilian group, and protesters. Other videos showed the aftermath of the shooting scene. You can watch videos of the shooting throughout this article. Be aware that the language in them is graphic.
Albuquerque Police confirmed that a man was shot at the protest in Albuquerque, writing on Twitter, “PD is investigating a shooting that just occurred at Mountain/Rio Grande. The shooting occurred during a protest event. One male subject was shot and has been transported. Officers are securing the scene. The public should avoid the area. This scene remains active and under investigation. We will provide updates when they are available.”
The injured man was in critical but stable condition.
“We are receiving reports about vigilante groups possibly instigating this violence,” Albuquerque Police Chief Michael Geier said in a statement. “If this is true will be holding them accountable to the fullest extent of the law, including federal hate group designation and prosecution.”
2. Baca Is the Son of a Former Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Official & Once Ran for Elected Office, Calling Local Officials ‘Complete Wimps’
In 2019, the Albuquerque Journal ran a short story on Baca that provides some biographical information. He was one of six candidates for an Albuquerque City Council seat at that time.
That story says he is the “son of a former Bernalillo County sheriff.” It also says that Baca was working as “a freelance process server and skip tracer” and was a native of North Valley.
He told the newspaper he was seeking office because he feared the community was becoming a “third world country,” calling local elected officials “complete wimps when it comes to fighting crime.” He also criticized the city’s efforts to combat homelessness.
“You kind of have to handle it from a criminal justice perspective – crack down on the low-level crimes that the homeless community is doing; have officers do warrant pickups, crack down on those very small crimes like drug abuse. … A lot of the people (who are homeless) are addicted to drugs; you need to get those people into the court system so they can be forced to go to rehab,” he said in that article.
In 2014, Baca created a Facebook page called “Citizens who stand with APD” while a college student. He told KOAT.com that he created the page to defend the police after protests, saying, “They don’t understand the job that they do, they’re not in that moment making those split-second decisions.” He said in that story that his uncle works for APD.
3. Dramatic Videos Captured Gunfire Ringing Out & the Confrontation
One dramatic video shows a scuffle between Baca and other people before gunshots break out.
Members of the guard were trying to protect a statue from the crowd, which was intent on pulling it down. Eventually, the armed guard members stepped down from the statue. One video shows that some people began chasing after another man in a blue shirt who had been milling around in the crowd. The man in the blue shirt doesn’t appear standing on the statue with the group of militia members in the videos circulating on social media. “Go home” and “get out of here” and “instigator,” people shout on the video right before the shooting. One person hit the man with a skateboard.
Watch a lengthy video from the scene here on Instagram.
Gunfire then breaks out, but you can’t see the actual shooting in the video. It was not immediately clear whether the man was affiliated with the guard. People appear to be scuffling in the street when the gunshots ring out. “F**k, he f**king shot somebody. F**k. Oh my God,” the narrator of the video says. The woman who posted that video later privatized it. However, other dramatic videos emerged from the scene. You can watch videos from the scene throughout this article.
The wounded man’s identity is not clear.
People also shared a video accusing Baca of violence toward a woman before the shooting.
Some people said the shooter was a member of the Civil Guard but that was not confirmed by authorities. KOB 4 did report that “a number of members with the New Mexico Civil Guard, a self-described civilian militia, were seen being arrested.”
Members of the Guard did surround and protect Baca after the shooting, video shows. This video shows he immediately got on his cell phone. It’s not clear whether Baca was a member of the guard.
Heavy sent Albuquerque police a series of questions: Was someone else also firing? Is Baca a member of the New Mexico Civil Guard? Did members of the New Mexico Civil Guard fire their weapons at the protest? The answers to the questions will be added into this story if they are received.
4. Police Say the FBI Is Helping Interview People
Police did post a series of statements on Twitter. “The incident at Tiguex Park has ended peacefully and APD’s Emergency Response Teams are leaving the Old Town area. The FBI is currently assisting APD violent crime investigators as they interview individuals who were involved in the shooting,” they wrote. “The investigation is in the preliminary stages…The victim is reported to be in critical but stable condition.”
Police also stated, “Police also released a statement saying they intervened “this evening with its emergency response team after an individual shot another individual during a protest in Albuquerque’s Old Town. Police used chemical irritants and flash bangs to protect officers and detain individuals involved in the shooting. The individuals were disarmed and taken into custody for questioning.”
KRQE-TV reported that “dozens of individuals called APD for help before the shooting,” but the police only arrived after it.
5. The Statue Features a Conquistador Named Juan de Oñate
Another video, which you can see above, showed two people on the ground surrounded by law enforcement.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, the victim was shot in Old Town and the protest was over a sculpture known as “La Jornada.” The newspaper reported that five or six “heavily armed New Mexico Civil Guard members” were present to try to “protect the monument that features conquistador Juan de Oñate.”
The newspaper reported that Baca was in a “fight” with “people trying to pull down the statue” and “was pushed onto the street, pulled a can of mace from his pocket and sprayed it.” KRQE reported that an undercover police detective used pepper spray on the crowd when he “observed several members from what appeared to be the main protesting group pursuing Baca on foot as he backed away from them.”
According to Britannica, Juan de Onate was a “conquistador who established the colony of New Mexico for Spain. During his despotic governorship, he vainly sought the mythical riches of North America and succeeded instead in unlocking the geographical secrets of what is now the southwestern United States.” As governor, he was found guilty of “cruelty, immorality, and false reporting,” the site reports.
According to Eastern New Mexico News, the civilian New Mexico Civil Guard has a mission to “defend citizens and their private property.”
“We will not allow businesses in our community to be put through the pain we’ve seen nationwide,” the Guard’s Facebook page reads. “The protests are necessary, we fully understand that, and to an extent the violence is necessary, but we will not allow that violence to be directed at our citizens and their property.”