Albuquerque, NM – Aggravated battery charges have been dropped against the counter-protester who shot a rioter after being chased down and beaten in the head with a skateboard.
Former Albuquerque city council candidate Steven Baca, 31, was facing felony charges of aggravated battery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony following the violent altercation outside the National History Museum on Monday night.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez dismissed those charges on Wednesday, NPR reported.
Baca, who does not have a concealed carry permit, still faces an unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon charge, Torrez said during a press conference.
Torrez further announced that Baca has been charged with three counts of battery after video footage allegedly showed him striking and injuring three women as they swarmed the Juan de Oñate monument he was allegedly trying to protect prior to the shooting.
The district attorney confirmed that he has asked the New Mexico State Police to handle the ongoing investigation into the incident, NPR reported.
Torrez alleged that undercover Albuquerque Police Department (APD) officers “did not intervene and act to enforce the specific laws or prevent the shooting,” NPR reported.
“More troubling, from our perspective, is the fact that after police and APD arrived at the scene, because of the dynamic situation and the tense situation that developed…there were tactics that were used by the Albuquerque PD that made it impossible for key witnesses to the event to actually make statements,” he added.
A police oversight board has also launched an investigation into the tactics the APD used before and after the demonstration turned violent.
The incident began outside the National History Museum at approximately 7:15 p.m., as rioters squared off with a group of armed counter-protesters at the site of a monument representing Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate, according to court documents.
The counter-protesters, many of whom identified themselves as the New Mexico Civil Guard’s “Bernalillo Company,” said they were trying to protect the monument from the rioters who sought to tear it down, The Washington Post reported.
Baca also showed up at the scene “to protect the statute from the protesters,” according to court documents.
Although their objectives seemed to be the same, John Burks, captain of the “Bernalillo Company,” said that Baca is not affiliated with his group, The Washington Post reported.
Cell phone footage showed the riotous mob as they swarmed the monument and attempted to rip it from its pedestal.
But while they were doing so, chaos erupted in the crowd.
A second video showed Baca as he tried to hold rioters away from the statue.
At one point, Baca took a woman to the ground, the video showed.
A moment later, Baca was standing at the edge of the fray when a masked suspect bashed him with a green longboard.
Baca immediately ran away from the crowd, but the rioters chased after him, the video showed.
He continued to back away from them, “utilizing pepper spray to douse the oncoming crowd,” according to court documents. “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.”
Despite his clear retreat, the mob “maliciously” pursued him and yanked him to the ground, police said.
Several members of the group began punching and kicking him while he was down on the pavement.
Baca attempted to protect his body and head with his hands, the video showed.
The longboard-wielding attacker, later identified as 39-year-old Scott Williams, then slammed the board into Baca’s head yet again.
Baca responded by firing a black semi-automatic handgun at him several times, according to court documents.
Williams suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his torso.
Baca then placed his gun on the ground and moved away from it, police said.
He was quickly taken into custody by APD tactical units and transported to Presbyterian Hospital, where he was medically cleared, according to court documents.
He refused to speak with investigators, and was subsequently charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, plus a firearm enhancement.
Williams was rushed to the hospital, where he remains in stable condition, The Washington Post reported.
Laura Schauer Ives, an attorney for Williams’ family, said that Williams has “devoted his life to seeking equality and justice,” the Albuquerque Journal reported.
“When Steven Baca repeatedly attacked peaceful protesters in Albuquerque last night, Scott took bullets for the community he cares about,” the family wrote in a statement.
Ives said that the Williams family is very “certain that had Scott not taken the bullets from Mr. Baca that the community, somebody in the community he cared about would have been harmed,” according to The Washington Post.
The family said that the APD should have done more to stop the situation from escalating to the point of violence.
“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,” Williams’ family declared, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
The APD used rubber projectiles and tear gas to disperse the riotous mob, according to The Washington Post.
All members of the armed militia group were taken into custody, but they were released about three hours later after being questioned, Burks told the paper.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller blamed the situation on “outside groups interfering with peaceful protests,” and alleged that the armed counter-protesters were trying to “prop up white supremacy,” The Washington Post reported.
Keller announced on Tuesday that the city is working with federal authorities to have groups like the New Mexico Civil Guard designated as hate groups, according to NPR.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham also denounced the group, alleging that they had shown up solely to “menace protesters, to present an unsanctioned show of unregulated force.”
Keller said that the city has removed the Juan de Oñate monument after doing so became an “urgent matter of public safety,” The Washington Post reported.
Baca, a Republican, won less than six percent of the vote during his run for Albuquerque City Council in 2019, according to The Washington Post.
He said he was compelled to run for office because he believes police are “complete wimps when it comes to fighting crime,” and that he is worried his community is becoming a “Third-World country,” The Washington Post reported.
You can see videos from the incident below. Warning – Graphic content and obscene language: