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Demonstrator Shot at Statue Protest, Armed Militia Members Detained

Demonstrator Shot at Statue Protest, Armed Militia Members Detained

A New Mexico man was charged with shooting a protester who was part of a crowd that tried to take down the statue of a conquistador in Albuquerque, KRQE reports.

Stephen Ray Baca, 31, was charged with aggravated battery in connection to the shooting, the police said.

The shooting happened after an armed militia calling themselves the New Mexico Civil Guard menaced protesters and surrounded the shooter in an apparent attempt to protect him from protesters.

It is unclear if Baca is a member of the group.

The shooting happened after multiple witnesses said dozens of people called police for help.

"About 30 people call police asking for help even 30 minutes before this had even arised and no cops came onto scene," one witness said. "By the time we ran here, shots fired and a gentlemen fell down… A whole swarm of — who are supporters — helped to resuscitate make sure that he was good. He was safe and well."

The victim was taken to the hospital in critical but stable condition.

FBI investigating:

The FBI is assisting the investigation, the APD said.

Sen. Martin Heinrich called for the Justice Department to investigate the shooting.

“I am calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the shooting that just occurred in front of the Albuquerque Museum,” he tweeted. “This is not the first report of heavily armed civilian militias appearing at protests around New Mexico in recent weeks. These extremists cannot be allowed to silence peaceful protests or inflict violence.”

"We are receiving reports about vigilante groups possibly instigating this violence," said APD Chief Michael Geier. "If this is true will be holding them accountable to the fullest extent of the law, including federal hate group designation and prosecution."

Statue coming down:

“Our hearts go out the victim, his family and witnesses whose lives were needlessly threatened tonight. This sculpture has now become an urgent matter of public safety,” said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller. “In order to contain the public safety risk, the City will be removing the statue until the appropriate civic institutions can determine next steps.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham condemned the shooting.

"Although we are still learning more about the situation, I am horrified and disgusted beyond words by the reports of violence at a protest Monday night in Albuquerque," she said. "The heavily armed individuals who flaunted themselves at the protest, calling themselves a 'civil guard,' were there for one reason: To menace protesters, to present an unsanctioned show of unregulated force. To menace the people of New Mexico with weaponry — with an implicit threat of violence — is on its face unacceptable; that violence did indeed occur is unspeakable."