CORRECTION: LCRW embedded an event poster from The Red Nation for a different event. We removed the embedded tweet. The Red Nation organized a separate event in Alcalde, NM at a different statue of Oñate. The Tiguex Park event covered in this story was organized by a separate group called Genizaro Nation.
UPDATE: Attorneys for Scott Williams, Baca’s victim, announced they’d file suit against city and county agencies and demanded evidence be preserved. A summary will appear in the section titled ‘THE CHARGES.’
Kate Kane tells me that “on the surface it sounded like they were just going to have a prayer meeting and hopefully put pressure on the city to take down the statue of Oñate.”
Juan de Oñate y Salazar was a conquistador and governed New Mexico for the Spanish Empire.
“He raped and pillaged native people here. It’s disrespectful and fucked up to have that statue here,” Kane told me. Selina Kyle described it as an “ornament glorifying enslavement.”
“There were rumors that the New Mexico Civil Guard was gonna be there, so I was personally interested in seeing who these people were,” John Tudor recounted.
Kane, Kyle and Tudor all used aliases for this story because of credible threats to their safety from the far-right. They are activists in Albuquerque, New Mexico who attended a demonstration against the Oñate statue on the Ides of June. By the end of the event, a former Albuquerque City Council candidate named Steven Baca shot and seriously injured a protester named Scott Williams. As of this writing, Williams is expected to recover.
“It turned out to be completely not a prayer meeting,” Kane said. She laughed nervously before briefly going quiet.
Kane, Kyle and Tudor arrived about 20-30 minutes late. The event had started at 6pm. The Oñate statue sits in front of the Albuquerque Museum. Members of an indigenous group were in Tiguex Park across the street leading prayers and speeches. A large man with a bullhorn wearing a red Albuquerque Dukes shirt was yelling at them. Across the street at the corner of 19th and Mountain, people were gathered around the statue.
“There were more aggressive protesters at the statue along with the civil guard guys,” Kane recalled. Tudor said that militiamen from New Mexico Civil Guard (NMCG) were “standing about a few on one side, a few on the other” and were “posted to watch people come in and out.”
“When I arrived I saw five of them around the crowd observing, massaging their weapons of destruction–stroking them,” Kyle says. She and Kane giggle.
Kyle says she recognized two of the militiamen from protests she attended in 2017 in front of congress-members' offices in downtown Albuquerque. The militiamen were there at the time with a group of “Tea Party Republican people.” They watched Kyle and the other protesters from across the street. The protests at the time were weekly and for the first few months the militiamen showed up regularly.
Kyle said she thought the militia weren’t much of a threat. She said they had “small dick energy.”
“They’re just here to stand over here with their guns. Let me see what else is going on,” she remembers thinking.
“I very woefully underestimated their ability to cause chaos–which is what they did.” she said.
In Albuquerque, the vigil has moved to the statue. At least 7 members of the armed NM Civil Guard here along with 100 or so people calling for this to be removed. Sage in the air. pic.twitter.com/SN6flC9xQI— Shaun Griswold (@shaun505) June 16, 2020
The prayer ceremony ended and people came across the road from it to the statue. People were filming the NMCG militiamen. Some made speeches about why it’s important to take the statue down. Kane said the protesters didn’t really have a plan–that it was “non-hierarchical and spontaneous.”
The man in red who was harassing the prayer ceremony came by the statue along with a woman.
“That’s when the tension started to rise because he wanted to shut down those protesting at the statue,” Tudor recalled. “So then him and this other lady everyone was calling ‘Karen’ were trying to do the same thing. They were together.”
“The woman protesters called ‘Karen’ was dressed in camo and held up a peace sign. She was talking about how everyone has the history wrong and Oñate was good.” Kane said.
“She was there to disrupt and protect the statue,” Kane continued. She witnessed ‘Karen’ mocking the indigenous people at the protests’ chants and hymns by “making weird screeching noises.”
“She started taking about her ancestry and how she should be able to hear what [protesters are] trying to do,” Kane recalled. “She was saying she was a descendant of Moctezuma.”
Kane said “there were a couple skirmishes,” but the protesters, in particular the volunteer medic, “was really good at de-escalating.”
Around the time ‘Karen’ was on the statue, more NMCG members started to show up. “It was almost as if they were coming off from work,” Tudor recalled. There were about four previously. Now there were seven or eight. The guy in the red shirt had left at this point.
The next person to stand out for Kane, Kyle and Tudor was the man in the blue shirt–soon-to-be shooter, Steven Baca.
Tudor said Baca was helping ‘Karen’ climb up and down the statue for a while. Baca “was trying to protect this lady,” he said.
“The crowd really early on figured out there was something really weird going on with him,” Kane recalled about Baca. “He kept making these like weird rounds of going into the crowd and like pushing somebody or like starting a small confrontation and then like going out into the street again,” she said. “He would come in and start something with someone and then wander back out into the street and get on his phone.”
5/23: Shooter has his phone in hand..seemed like he is just waiting for something.. pic.twitter.com/DZLwsutpOl— Yup (@Much_Truth) June 16, 2020
“I saw a bunch of footage where people were like ‘Oh, this poor guy! He was attacked by an angry mob!” That’s not what happened,” Kane told LCRW. “He was starting shit with protesters and like, particularly women protesters for like a long, long time before anyone tried to physically block him from getting back in.”
Here is an in-order video timeline, from multiple angles showing Steven Baca assaulting and battering three separate women.— Chad Loder (@chadloder) June 16, 2020
All of these assaults against women occurred prior to Baca opening fire at bystanders who chased him down. pic.twitter.com/j7LABSAf9c
Baca attacked three different women before he shot someone. Court documents say that “Steven Ray Baca forcibly and, in a rude, insolent, or angry manner, pushed ‘Jane Doe 2′ and ‘Jane Does 3.’ ‘Jane Doe 1,’ with her back turned to Steven Ray Baca, moved to prevent Steven Ray Baca from pushing past her.” Kyle recalls Baca pulled the first two women (Jane Does 2 and 3) but didn’t slam them to the ground like he did with the third (Jane Doe 1.)
“If the Civil Guard weren’t there, the crowd would have been able to focus on this one person (Baca) that was a threat and try to handle it,” Kane said. Instead, she says they had to deal with “these crazy civil guard guys who were trying to climb around on this statue with their guns and push their way into the protesters and stuff.”
“Things started getting really hairy when this woman came out and she had an ‘all lives matter’ sign. She wanted to get on the statue and hold her sign,” Tudor said. To clarify, this was a separate woman from ‘Karen.’
Tudor said that people started crowding towards the front around the statue. Baca would repeatedly push people and then leave to the street to go talk to someone on his phone, he said, before coming back in. After Baca did this enough, someone accused him of being an undercover cop.
And there’s the can of mace again pic.twitter.com/FJUYVpo7iW— Chad Loder (@chadloder) June 16, 2020
“I don’t remember who it was–one of the protesters next to me spotted–somehow figured out [Baca] had a gun and he had mace in his pocket,” Kane said. “So everybody was assuming he was a cop or something and they were shouting like “COP! COP! COP! COP!” trying to get attention to this guy.”
Kyle was standing next to the person who identified Baca–albeit incorrectly–as an undercover officer. She said Baca’s reaction “convinced me he was not undercover–like he was a wannabe.” Kyle says this is because Baca didn’t reach to protect his gun and he didn’t exit the crowd.
“He smirked like he relished the attention,” Kyle said. “It seemed he wanted to be more relevant than he is,” she said. “He didn’t discredit it. He didn’t say a thing. He allowed the group to think he was law enforcement.”
This video ends 4 minutes before the shooting. Shows the crowd reacting to the soon-to-be shooter, keeping an eye on the him after he apparently brandished his gun.— Chad Loder (@chadloder) June 16, 2020
“Keep an eye on that guy” one says. As he re-enters the crowd, he’s told “Hey man, you should stay out of there.” pic.twitter.com/pGAv4w6wFN
People started blocking Baca and the NMCG from getting close to the statue by forming a human chain. Kyle says there were men and women in the human chain, but Baca consistently chose women to grab and pull. Kane says other protesters told her Baca had previously brandished a gun, though she didn’t see the act herself.
NMCG members had been standing at the perimeter.
“As soon as the protesters said they were going to try to take it down, three or four of them, Bryce (Provance), one of the new guys and Craig (Fitzgerald) made a bee-line to get on top of this statue and guard it physically,” Kane recounted.
The armed militiamen shoved multiple women and tried to intimidate protesters, Kane said. Some of the militiamen succeeded in climbing the rock the statue sits on.
At some point there was a scuffle with a young, visibly queer person who “was wearing lots of makeup,” Tudor said. This person was a target for NMCG members’ ire.
“They didn’t seem to like this kid too much. He ended up getting pushed into the one guy who didn’t have a gun,” Tudor said. That person was Bryce Provance, who is a convicted felon and can’t legally own firearms.
“Bryce turned around and reached for his knife,” Tudor said. A protester tackled Provance and tried to disarm him. A scuffle ensued.
“And then that starts this huge skirmish where one of the NMCG guys loses his gun somehow. It was on a sling and it flipped over his head,” Kane recalled. The gun fell on the ground when the militiaman went to retrieve Provance.
“So me and another protester ran up and stepped on the gun so no one would pick it up and do anything crazy,” Tudor recounted. “But then this guy who dropped his gun freaked out and started throwing people around.”
“I was surprised that that guy dropped his gun. It seems like your gun is like your penis–like ‘don’t let it go!’” Tudor said, laughing a little before pausing. “They come out appearing like they’re military but to be untrained with that high powered weapons is scary.”
“Another protester dropped his body onto the gun to keep the Civil Guard from getting it because they were like freaking out,” Kane said.
Kane later identified the protester covering the gun as Scott Williams, the man Baca later shot. Footage posted on Instagram shows Williams had a squirt bottle and a carabiner with him. The bottle and carabiner are also visible on Williams’s person in video of the altercation where Baca shot him.
“The [NMCG member] who lost his gun–I don’t know his name–he was the one with the Three Percenters patch on his back. He dove onto the guy who had covered the gun and was hitting him and trying to beat the living hell out of him,” Kane recounted.
“He’d already been seriously beaten before he went out and got shot. Dude is a fucking hero,” Kane reflected later.
“I grabbed his vest and pulled him off and Bryce Provance came in and was like flailing everywhere–like elbowed me in the face and started screaming and stuff. And then the medic came in again. The medic saved the day so many times ‘cause like the NMCG would listen to him too, which kind of surprised me. So that de-escalated.”
“He should’ve just backed off,” Kane said of the man with the III% back patch.
“He knows we’re not gonna shoot him. If we were going to shoot him, we would’ve picked it up and shot him. They laid down on it!” Kane said, laughing before taking a long pause.
“The Civil Guard absolutely 110% escalated everything,” she said.
Watching over these scuffles but not intervening were at least 30 policemen in the Museum.
“There’s no way they didn’t know there’s protesters facing down a bunch of screaming, cussing New Mexico Civil Guard guys with like assault rifles,” Kane said. “They had been in the museum the whole time and we’re just out here literally fighting with these guys over guns and they didn’t come out or do anything about it. They just waited.”
After the scuffle, an Instagram video shows a bearded NMCG member was perched on the statue, his gun slung over his crotch like it was Johnny Ramone’s guitar. He refused to move while the crowd shouted at him to leave. Next to him, someone’s spray-painted the statue in Spanish. It says “Oñate no vale verga,” or “Oñate ain’t worth dick.”
At one point a protester with a pickaxe was trying to chip away at the base of the statue so it could be taken down. The bearded NMCG member tried to grab the pickaxe. Someone took it and put it out of reach. The crowd started chanting “This is what a racist looks like!” The bearded NMCG member’s hat and sunglasses were knocked off but one of the protest’s organizers made sure they got back to him.
“Please leave! There is a clear path for you!” a protester says.
“We’re not asking! Leave!” another says.
Tudor said this NMCG member was “super antagonistic” the whole time. In the video, he eventually leaves and people start cheering and applauding.
Protesters start getting ready to pull on a chain tied to the Oñate statue. Bryce Provance and the NMCG member with the beard head off to one side of the statue. Baca is on the other. People yank the chain to try to get the statue down, but to no avail.
“Everything de-escalated for a little bit,” Kane recalls. The human chain around the statue reformed to keep Baca and the militiamen out. A woman in sunglasses struck someone. People got between her and the protester she struck. In one video, Baca first seems to be leading the woman in away. Then Baca slams into a protester and grabs a woman whose back was to him who was in a camo jacket. She was a different woman than ‘Karen.’
<blockquote class="twitter"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The clearest video yet of the shooter (blue shirt) violently throwing a young woman to the ground prior to the shooting.<br><br>This is Simple Battery *at least*. Witnesses were within their rights to detain him. <a href="https://t.co/WPtn6qxrly">pic.twitter.com/WPtn6qxrly</a></p>— Chad Loder (@chadloder) <a href="
">June 16, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="
“He tried to push through her,” Kyle recalls. “She was trying to booty-push him away. She maybe weighed like 90 pounds and that fucker (Baca) is, you know, probably a good 170.”
“He grabbed her and picked her up and threw her down on the ground. I heard her head hit the cement,” Kyle said. The woman Baca attacked was left with elbows “bloodied probably three or four inches all around.” Her knees were also bloody and scraped. Kyle thinks she got a concussion.
“Two of her friends punched him. One hit him with her purse. They tackled him to the ground and hit him a couple of times,” Kyle recounts. When he got up, they started chasing after him.
“I just saw five people on the ground turn towards him–just furious. Everybody was sick of this dude and then he attacked this girl,” Kane continued. The Instagram video shows Baca slowly retreating into the street, looking back at the protestors all the while.
“He would run just a little bit and then just turn around. He was never trying to run away. He was trying to bring it into the street,” Tudor said.
“If he had kept running none of this would have happened,” Kane said.
“Everybody was following him and then he turned around and maced a bunch of people,” Kane recounted. She was just behind the people who started getting maced. Tudor was with Kane. He yelled “Instigator!” and thought police would arrive soon. There were two people in the lead pursuing Baca. One was a woman with a purse and another was a young man in a black hoodie. Kyle says the woman with the purse used it to hit Baca. She says it “was not a big purse.” Baca maced her in retaliation. “The skateboard guy,” Kyle said, arrived “to defend her honor” along with another man. The man with the skateboard would later be identified as Scott Williams.
Kane began filming. Her video starts with someone shouting “Get his license plate!” Several people, including Williams, run after Baca. A scuffle ensues between Baca and a black-clad man with a large green backpack. A few others run over. Baca falls on the ground, as does the man with the large green backpack. Williams takes out a skateboard and hits Baca with it.
Just as Kane’s camera slips from the fight, Baca fires at least four rounds. Another video posted to ABQ Raw but then removed shows Baca’s actions clearly. Someone screams at Baca “I’m going to fucking kill you!” Baca gets up from off the ground. Williams readies to strike Baca with his skateboard. Baca reaches for his gun, points it at the man with the big green backpack for a split second, then points it at Williams and fires. Williams drops his skateboard, staggers and collapses on the ground. Baca leaves his gun on the ground, steps several feet away and crouches on the street.
“Once I heard the gunfire–I mean, I turned around and knocked [Kane] to the ground and covered,” Tudor said. “We were by the sidewalk, ended up in the bushes. The civil guard was all streaming over us–trying to jump over us to get to the shooter.”
“At that point we didn’t know if the shooting was going to stop or if the civil guard was gonna start shooting,” Tudor said. People were running up to assist the victim. Video shows several people including Provance and Williams’s father Daniel, rush to Williams’s aid, turning him over on his back and trying to staunch the blood flow.
Kyle said she was in shock right after the shooting. “I didn’t believe it had happened–I thought people were being over-dramatic. But he was on the ground and I could see fluid.”
“A lot of people were still at the statue. A lot of people had already started running. So there was this moment where you’re like ‘we’re trapped’ because there’s no police, there’s just the civil guard. You’re on the ground. Their buddy just shot somebody. Are they going to continue to shoot?” Tudor recalled. Tudor later corrected himself and said he wasn’t sure whether the NMCG was actually close with Baca or not.
“That’s about the closest I’ve been to when the gunfire might have started again and it would’ve been us. Even the direction he was aiming–because he got off five shots–I think two of them went into the kid,” he said. “I don’t know where the other three bullets went but it was definitely in our direction.”
Very tense scene in Albuquerque right now. Shots fired, a guy on the ground. Militia members still w/ rifles pic.twitter.com/IYhBr9egFB— Simon Romero (@viaSimonRomero) June 16, 2020
They got up after a few moments and went towards Williams. The woman who Baca had slammed into the concrete was standing over Williams.
“She was incredibly brave,” Kyle said.
Others were shouting at the NMCG, who surrounded Baca with their backs to him and their guns to the protesters within seconds of the shooter laying his gun down and sitting in the street.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” someone screams at Baca in one video that was posted to ABQ Raw and later taken down.
Seconds after this guy shot into the crowd hitting one person (who is in bad condition), his fashy NMCG buddies surrounded him to protect him from the people. These guys were working with the cops weeks earlier. pic.twitter.com/6TFyDIQc99— Nick Estes (@nickwestes) June 16, 2020
“By the time [the NMCG] got there, they didn’t have to apprehend him or anything. He was just sitting in the street,” Tudor said. “They kind of created a barrier between him and the protesters who were obviously furious.”
Video by journalist Nick Estes shows one of the militiamen shouldered his rifle. It’s not clear whether he was pointing it at Baca or the protesters.
Tudor said one of the younger NMCG members fled. “He went towards the museum while his buddies circled the shooters. He was just kind of hiding in the shadows,” Tudor said.
“I call 911 and I get an automated message that says ‘please stay on the line’ and then just goes dead. Like I never actually got a hold of anybody,” Kane recalled. She said one of the other protesters pulled up in her truck. “They were about to put this dude who’s bleeding out in the back of the truck and take him to the hospital.”
“Then all of a sudden the cops show up. They still don’t have an ambulance. They show up with–I don’t know what this thing is–it’s some kind of giant armored truck thing and like a police van and some shit and riot gear. No medical gear. 30 feet away. They know for a fact that someone just got fucking shot,” Kane said.
“Within three minutes it went from zero to maybe 40 police–some in riot gear, some in military fatigues,” Tudor said.
This is the shooter. He said, “My father is the BCSO (Bernalillo County Sheriffs Office).” pic.twitter.com/YRGL3mjljj— Nick Estes (@nickwestes) June 16, 2020
Video shows police pulled up in an armored truck five feet away from the victim. Policemen in body armor with long guns stepped over the victim as he lay on the ground to do crowd control. One officer drops his extra clip on the ground as he’s unslinging his rifle to aim it at the crowd. He keeps the rifle pointed at the crowd as he picks it back up.
New Mexico civil guard members and one other man being arrested. All weapons being taken from them. Still no ambulance here. Police are here. Unclear who fired shots pic.twitter.com/HBe5SVjs2r— Megan Abundis (@meganrabundis) June 16, 2020
Other officers detained most of the militiamen, including the young member who had fled. Although the audio is hard to hear, one NMCG member on the ground appears to tell the policeman patting him down “we came over here to stop the fight.”
“Bryce Provance didn’t get arrested. He just wandered off. It was the weirdest shit ever,” Kane said.
While being arrested, Baca said “My father is the BCSO.” That stands for Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office.
“My thoughts were very disjointed,” Kyle says about this part of her recollection. She recalls seeing Williams on the ground, worrying about her friends, worrying about what the police would do. She saw them arrest “those militia guys” and thought “Good–I hope those fuckers rot in hell.”
“I know the situation got too big for them. You could tell,” Tudor said about the NMCG. “But their leading force–their elder statemen–they want to go. They want to push it to see how far it can go, I think. And I fully expect to see them again.”
When Kyle saw the police, she thought, “OK, now here comes the real terrorist organization. How’s this gonna end? They’re not here to help.”
Kane said that since the start of the George Floyd protests, police were using ‘Sun Vans’–Albuquerque’s paratransit vans–to shuttle riot cops in without anyone noticing. Because of this, she observed some people deflating those vans’ tires.
Williams' parents, Daniel and Denise, told KUNM what happened after their son was shot. Daniel, a retired paramedic, helped stabilize him and get him on a gurney for the ambulance.
“I was told by a couple of cops to get the hell out of there – you know, while I was still working on my son. They were extremely rude and obnoxious,” Daniel said.
“I walked across the street with my hands up, a cop came up in my face. I said that man on the ground is my son. And the man working on him is my husband. And he told me, ‘I don’t give a fuck if you’re the Virgin Mary, you get the hell out of here,’ and he took whatever was in his hand, a baton or a rifle, and he put it on my chest and shoved me backwards,” Denise said.
Finally, an ambulance came for Williams.
“That’s my son,” Denise Williams said while watching him being loaded into the back on a gurney. A contingent of riot cops swaggered past the ambulance towards the protesters.
In a statement, Williams’s family confirmed Kane’s assertion that “the Albuquerque Police Department hid behind the Albuquerque museum, refused to respond to multiple requests for help, and only sent officers in once shots were fired.”
Kane opined that putting Williams in the back of the truck would’ve probably gotten him to the hospital faster.
Police immediately formed a riot line and started pushing the crowd away.
“Then it became a territory thing on that block where people wanted to be near that statue but then they were designating everything as a crime scene,” Tudor recalled. He says they “switched out the smaller police officers in for the bigger police officers who were quite yoked and had like ‘roid rage filling their eyes.”
“Some of them wanted to go. They were ready to ‘let’s use these clubs and get going with this now!,’” Tudor recalled. One officer at the end of the line “agreed with the protesters that this was all bullshit,” he said.
“I don’t know why we’re holding you guys back. I just have to do it,” Tudor says the officer told him.
One of Kane’s friends wanted to make a statement to the police but was ignored. Police shoved people and fired teargas and other special impact munitions. Kane said some of the canisters police fired blew up into shards of sharp metal.
“Peoples’ hands were up and they were posing no threat,” Kyle said. “Nobody had any weapons.”
“They knocked this girl down and stomped on her and we had to pull her back up,” Kane recounted. “They used some kind of crazy gas, rubber bullets, and these cans of this kind of green stuff–this green powder that was like exploding on everybody. I was not aware enough to process at the time. They might have given us a warning. They might not have. I was freaked the fuck out.”
“My first reaction to this was ‘No, you’re not doing this to us. We have rights,’” Kyle recalled. “So that’s why I pushed back. I was like fuck you–just because you have a badge does not mean you get to terrorize this little community.”
Kyle pauses. “Obviously, we didn’t win,” she says. “They pushed people down and put out the teargas canisters. Once those were fired, people dispersed.”
Kane said Kyle refused to move. “Flash grenade went off in front of me. She (Kyle) just took one rubber bullet to the leg and kind of just held her space.”
“However it happened, I ended up with my hands up about five feet from the police line,” Kyle recalled. She told somebody on the sidewalk, “I’m actually not allergic to teargas. It doesn’t bother me.”
Kyle continued, “I made eye contact with one of the APD officers in front of me. He lifts up his gun looking me straight in the eye and at his hip shoots–and I feel this pain in my leg–that I’ve been hit with this green powder canister. Kate (Kane) is screaming because the guy had pointed a weapon at me, right? So he’s gonna kill me is her belief–and justifiably so. I’m the right color and it’s the right circumstance.”
“So that’s when I walked off from in front of them. They never moved from that spot,” Kyle recalls. She said the crowd came back to face off with the police again after she left.
“I don’t know why they needed to shoot at me. I had no weapons. I had my hands in the air. I posed no threat. I was not yelling at them. I did not curse at them. I was not calling them names,” Kyle recounted.
“He shot it because he could. And he smirked afterwards,” she said.
MS. KYLE’S AFTERWORD
Kane, Kyle and Tudor all made it out safely. LCRW spoke to Kane and Tudor the day after the event and Kyle two days after. Kyle recalled that she broke down later watching video of the standoff with police. She heard Kane scream for them to leave. She said it dawned on her that “in any other city, it really very easily could have been the cop shot and blew my head off.”
LCRW transcribed what she said next and will run it here.
This happened in the last three weeks in city after city in this country–people peacefully protesting and the police under the guise of self-defense or whatever they usually claim–they kill someone. That could have been the circumstances. The reality has probably not set in all the way. It could be worse. I could be on a ventilator and you’re having a conversation with my family.
Those are the realities of brown and black people in this country–marginalized people; minorities: Police are not your friend. And because I’m of mixed race, I was raised mostly white except when we were overseas. It’s different being black there versus being black in the United States. My parents were arrested in 1977 in Memphis, Tennessee for being married.
I think I was sheltered most of my life–raised white. I haven’t experienced the reality most black and brown people do. An organization that’s supposed to serve and protect and is supposed to be a reflection of our justice system–it doesn’t represent that for people who are brown and black or minority groups.
I don’t know how to help people who haven’t experienced the police as a terrorist group. I don’t know how to help them understand that yeah, they can call the police when somebody’s barbecuing in a place they’re not supposed to and the think that’s great–whereas we don’t call the police for anything.
They’re not our friends. They’re just not. They come with a set of prejudices–a set of biases. When I have been stopped for speeding, when I have gone to court dealing with law enforcement, there’s just a sort of inherent bias that you have to overcome before you can get to ‘okay this is why we’re here.’
But personally? I would never call the police for anything.
The criminal complaint filed on the 16th against Baca doesn’t mention his attacking three different women–or anything that occurred until the conflict around the statue “started to escalate” at around 7:15PM. The report often uses remarkably vague language to describe Baca’s actions.
For example, the next sentence reads, “Steven (Baca) was similarly recorded, leaving the area of the statue toward the street interacting with the crowd. However, his specific type of interaction with the crowd is unknown at this time.”
According to the complaint, an undercover detective “observed several members from what appeared to be the main protest group pursuing Steven on foot while he backed away from them, utilizing pepper spray to douse the oncoming crowd.” The complaint’s language, Kane said, is “setting it up as self-defense where this guy was being chased by this angry mob.”
“I’m kind of freaking out because if they can get away with violence this time they’re going to do it again,” Kane told LCRW. “If they can come in and start shit and almost kill somebody and get away with it–this is like a wet dream for these guys.”
It might have seemed police were treating Baca lightly when, on the 17th, his charge of Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon was dropped by the DA. But new charges related to his attacking three protesters and unlawfully carrying a weapon were added and District Attorney Raúl Torrez said that the initial charge is being dropped pending a new investigation. This will likely result in more serious charges.
DA Torrez, in a letter requesting that APD turn the investigation over to New Mexico State Police, also told APD’s Chief Michael Geier that “the original complaint filed by APD seems to omit the fact that Mr. Baca attacked an as yet unidentified woman in the crowd and, if corroborated, would negate any self-defense claim he may pursue.”
Torrez also told Geier that he was “concerned that APD’s response to the crowd of protesters and counter-protesters after the shooting may have adversely impacted your department’s ability to collect critical evidence at the crime scene.”
On the 19th, Williams’s attorneys sent a letter to the city, APD and county officials announcing their intent to file a tort suit. The letter reasserts the claims of eyewitnesses LCRW spoke to as well as Williams’s family that police were stationed at the museum but did nothing to intervene. The letter also says that APD didn’t secure the crime scene and that “APD crafted a biased and inaccurate criminal complaint and has not produced an evidence inventory or Steven Baca’s cellphone to the District Attorney’s Office.”
“Mr. Williams has now received death threats from domestic terrorists,” the letter also says.
In 2014, Baca made a Facebook page called “Citizens who stand with APD.” He was a Santa Fe Community College student at the time. Baca made the page to defend police after they shot and killed an unhoused man with schizophrenia named James Boyd and subsequently faced widespread protests.
“They don’t understand the job that they do, they’re not in that moment making those split-second decisions,” Baca told Action News 7 at the time.
Steven Baca ran for Albuquerque City Council District 2 as a Republican in 2019. He got 675 votes–5.8%. It was a six-way race. Baca’s platform was to further criminalize houselessness. He said he feared Albuquerque becoming a “third world country” and that elected officials were “complete wimps when it comes to fighting crime.”
“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 told the Albuquerque Journal.
Baca, it turns out, was an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2016 and crowdfunded $1700 to attend, although it is unclear if he did or what happened to the money. pic.twitter.com/Agiw1V9LGF— Arun Gupta Four Seasons Total Geoengineering (@arunindy) June 16, 2020
In 2016, Baca crowdfunded $1700 to go to the 2016 Republican National Convention. LCRW couldn’t find any evidence as to whether he did or didn’t go. Baca was also on the board of the Albuquerque Tea Party.
In 2012, Baca was kicked out of the Air National Guard for repeated misbehavior, including “wearing his cover indoors” when he was at Kirtland Air Base. “Cover” is military-speak for anything that can protect you from enemy fire.
KRQE reported that “that particular infraction led to a confrontation with a Master Sergeant of the Kirtland Security Police. Military Police eventually arrested Baca for assault, fleeing the scene of an accident, insubordination and failure to obey an order. He was given a general discharge.”
While Baca was attending Valley High School, he was in ROTC.
Baca, like Quebec Mosque attacker Alexandre Bissonette, is a Ben Shapiro fan. His Facebook appears to have been scrubbed, but his Twitter profile, last used in late January, is still online as of this writing. He followed Shapiro, the NRA’s Dana Loesch, Dinesh D’Souza and a QAnon account called “Q Patriot – The Redpill Project.”
Baca’s first tweet was a reply to a since-deleted post by Vice’s Tim Marchman on January 25th, 2017. It read, “Name a time and place Mr. Sore Butt.”
His last Twitter post on January 30th was in admiration of the Sheriff in Cibola County, New Mexico, who said he wasn’t going to enforce a “red flag” gun law if it went into effect in the state–even if it meant a contempt charge.
“Sheriff’s[sic] here in New Mexico are willing to go to jail for defending are 2nd Amendment Rights. It’s nice to are elected leaders take a stand,” he wrote. He tagged Shapiro as well as Glenn Beck.
Gun rights issues were a consistent topic of interest to Baca. LCRW’s analysis shows 45 of his 72 tweets were about guns. Two were retweets of pro-gun arguments. While many of the tweets were pro-gun polemics, 28 of the tweets about guns were promoting YouTube videos he made that he said included links to 3D printed gun schematics from pedophile Cody R. Wilson’s now-defunct 3D-printed gun website. In one tweet Baca claimed spreading the plans was a “First Amendment Issue.”
Baca’s Twitter reflects his history of belligerence and shows he clearly fetishizes guns. I think the most telling thing was that in the first tweet from this account, he was clearly looking for a fight.
On the 19th, Baca’s lawyer, Jason Bowles, filed a motion to request he be released from pretrial detention. Bowles claims “the State has not even interviewed these alleged victims” and that “We do not even know if “Jane Doe” will eventually come forward.” Therefore, Bowles argued, the only charges Baca is currently facing are misdemeanors and he shouldn’t be held.
Baca’s next hearing is on Monday the 22nd.
When reflecting on Baca’s intentions before the shooting, Kane told LCRW that she thought he was trying to draw people into the street to attack them one on one–be it with pepper spray or worse.
“I don’t know if he planned on shooting somebody, but I think he was trying to get the exact situation he got,” Kane said.
Bryce Provance was interviewed after the shooting by KOB4 in Albuquerque. Provance framed his actions as defending the woman with the ‘All Lives Matter’ sign who climbed on top of the statue. He omits any mention of NMCG’s aggression and the interviewer does not confront him about it. Provance told KOB4 the militiamen were in contact with the police, giving them their side of the story as it unfolded. Journalist Nick Estes heard police scanner chatter refer to them as “armed friendlies.”
A member of the New Mexico Civil Guard says the shooter from yesterday's protest is not part of their group.— Patrick Hayes (@KOBPatrickHayes) June 16, 2020
He says the militia called police before things got out of control. pic.twitter.com/IVqu6nZlP0
“As to whether I felt like they were racist–them being there to protect a racist statue says something about their values. But I don’t know. I don’t have enough information about those individuals,” Kyle said.
The New Mexico Civil Guard is a new group. They seems to have popped up some time around the anti-quarantine protests a few months ago. It was small at first but grew rapidly in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests at the end of May. It now has chapters in eleven counties.
Online, the NMCG engages in the same kind of violent fantasies that other U.S. right-wing militias do. When looting started in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, they took to Facebook to talk about how they were going to “keep businesses safe.”
“Our fore fathers[sic] would have been stacking bodies at this point,” Daven Weston, an NMCG member, said on the post. Provance ‘liked’ the comment.
When they got the chance to interact with Black Lives Matter protests on June 2nd, the NMCG showed up armed and intimidated them.
One member of the NMCG, Craig Fitzgerald, is also a Proud Boy. He attended a Proud Boys rally on September 14th last year while wearing the group’s regalia.
Fitzgerald is–or at least was at one point–also a member of the National Anarchist Tribal Alliance. National Anarchism is basically neo-Nazism but you sort of pretend to be an anarchist too. In 2017, Fitzgerald flew a confederate flag in Old Town Albuquerque after some confederate monuments were removed. Police issued him a criminal trespass order, meaning he can’t come back to the Old Town Plaza.
In addition to Fitzgerald, Provance has LARPed as a Confederate. He’s also involved with a group called “The New Confederate States of America.” It’s exactly what it sounds like. On their website, he’s referred to as “State Commander of New Mexico and Regional Director For The Western Region - Hon. Bryce Provance.”
NMCG members have popped up alongside people spouting a lot of violent rhetoric. Otero County District 2 Commissioner Cuoy Griffin said in a speech on May 17th that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” He was speaking at a ‘Cowboys for Trump’ rally–a group he founded. NMCG members attended the event.
As an aside,Trump quote-tweeted a Cowboys for Trump reply to a Daily Beast article about the ‘dead Democrat’ comment, calling it fake news. “Thank you Cowboys. See you in New Mexico!” Trump said.
Some on social media blamed the militiamen for the shooting. The NMCG denied Baca was a member. LCRW hasn’t found Baca in photos of the group at previous events. Some think there is a prior link between the NMCG and Baca. Eyewitnesses LCRW spoke to did see Baca interact with the militiamen throughout the protest.
Kyle said she saw Baca talk with two of the militiamen. Kane saw him talk with several of them. Kane believes all the right-wing agitators at the event knew each other. Kyle said she didn’t have enough information to form a conclusion.
6/23: Big guy in Red shirt shows up, he is arguing with the protester. Red shirt drops something, one of the militia guys picks it up and hands it to the Red shirt guy who then hands it to shooter. Shooter walks away. pic.twitter.com/GRHa26IQvE— Yup (@Much_Truth) June 16, 2020
Kane recounted a strange incident caught on video where Baca dropped two small, unidentified cylindrical objects that looked like shotgun shells on the ground. Fitzgerald of the NMCG picked it up, handed it to the guy in red and the guy in red handed it to the shooter. It’s unclear if this incident had any bearing on whether the far-right agitators all knew each other or not.
“They (the NMCG) certainly tolerated him (Baca.) They didn’t stop him from pulling on people or pushing them,” Kyle said.
But the NMCG arguably did more than ‘tolerate’ the shooter after the fact. They defended him on their Facebook page, framing the conflict as “ANTIFA “peacefull[sic] protesters” attack Women last night and a man walking to his car.” On Wednesday, they posted a meme to their Facebook page labelling Baca as a “Hispanic victim” and the people pursuing him as “white antifa guy[s]” and a “white girl.” They also posted screenshots from video of people attacking Baca and captioned it “Here is your shooter and your peaceful protesters.”
While the NMCG’s connections to the shooter are unknown, their connection to local Republican politics is quite clear. The local Republican party issued a statement condemning the shooting, but took it back on the same day. A mere two days after they shoved and intimidated protesters, the militiamen were headlining an event for New Mexico House candidate Dinah Vargas and the local GOP. Vargas has worked with the NMCG before, telling journalist Bella Davis the group previously “helped her clean up district 10.” The NMCG ended up not showing up at the event.
Five NMCG members were detained by police after the shooting but were eventually let go. Police recovered 13 guns and 34 magazines from them. One of them was a high-capacity drum magazine.
Robert Evans, journalist at Bellingcat and host of the Behind the Bastards podcast, has years of experience covering international conflicts and grew up around firearms. He weighed in on the arsenal for LCRW.
“These guys may call themselves a militia but this is not what a group of trained and experienced operators would choose to bring into the field,” Evans said. He explained that the long guns used at least three different caliber bullets and he wasn’t sure if the automatic handguns all used 9mm rounds or not.
“As a rule, a team that knew their shit would do their best to show up with interchangeable calibers.” Evans explained. “There’s a reason our military uses standard handgun, rifle calibers for normal infantry weapons.”
Evans clarified that “This is a pretty normal array of equipment for civilian gun owners in the U.S.”
“In short this looks like just a bunch of dudes’ random assortment of guns. Like if you pulled all the guns out of my cabinet and my friend’s cabinet you’d get a similar load-out,” Evans continued. “Obviously all guns are guns but this is not the kind of equipment a well-organized military force would take into the field expecting battle.”
“That said," Evans added, “it’s more than enough to murder a bunch of unarmed people.”
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