Prosecutor Drops Charge Against Suspect in New Mexico Protest Shooting

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By NTD Newsroom
June 18, 2020US News
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Prosecutor Drops Charge Against Suspect in New Mexico Protest Shooting
Steven Baca in an undated mugshot. (Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office via AP)

Charges against a New Mexico man suspected of shooting a protester were dropped after allegations surfaced that the protestor may have been armed at the time of the shooting, according to multiple reports.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez on Wednesday dropped a use of a deadly weapon charge against Steven Baca, 31, who fired a gun during an altercation at a protest in Albuquerque on Monday.

Torrez said he was concerned that the initial investigation into the incident wasn’t conducted in full, and that police didn’t identify the owner(s) of various weapons that were found on the scene and failed to interview the key witnesses, according to Reuters.

This was further called into question when images surfaced online showing protestor Scott Williams, a 39-year-old man who was allegedly shot by Baca, holding what appeared to be a knife prior to being shot, the news outlet reported.

Reuters reported that Baca was initially charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Now that the charges have been dropped, Torrez says that Baca will likely claim that he acted in self-defense. He said that under New Mexico law, a person cannot claim self defense if they are the first aggressor.

“There have been rumors on social media about what transpired in the final seconds before this and we are actively looking into those and whether or not this was justified. The reason he is not facing that charge right now is because this investigation is not complete,” Torrez stated during a press briefing online. “Right now I have no evidence to suggest that he was in any way armed. The fact that we haven’t charged it (shooting charge) today doesn’t mean it will not be charged,” Torrez said.

On Monday, when the shooting took place, Baca was reportedly at the demonstration as a counter protestor where people attempted to remove the statue of Spanish conquerer Juan de Oñate. Video on social media showed Baca trying to move deeper into the protest but being blocked by a woman with her arms spread out, throwing her to the ground.

That action prompted several people to rush toward Baca, brandishing weapons and threatening him as he used pepper spray to try to fend them off. When that didn’t work—one man kept swinging a longboard at Baca—he discharged his weapon, hitting Williams, the man with the longboard.

Zachary Stieber and Reuters contributed to this report

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