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Trump Activist Charged with Attempted Murder in Española Shooting

Alex Constantine - December 17, 2023

Ryan Martinez, 23, shot a man at a prayer vigil at site of proposed Oñate statue

BY: ANDREW BEALE - Source NM, 9-29-23

 The concrete slab where Rio Arriba County officials planned to reinstall a statue of statue of conquistador and war criminal Juan de Oñate. (Photo by Anna Padilla for Source NM)

A Trump supporter who shot an activist at a prayer vigil in Española yesterday has been charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault, according to court documents.

Video shows Ryan Martinez, 23, was chased out of the prayer vigil at the site of a proposed statue of racist war criminal Juan de Oñate. After escaping over a short wall, Martinez turned around and drew a pistol, firing one shot before fleeing the scene.

The shot hit 42-year-old Jacob Johns (Hopi and Akimel O’odham), according to an affidavit for an arrest warrant for Martinez. A Gofundme page for Johns’ medical bills shared by organizers of the prayer vigil said Johns “dedicated his life to Indigenous and climate justice [and] is a skilled muralist and speaker, and specializes in non-violent, peaceful ‘artivism.’”

Martinez is the third Trump supporter in New Mexico to be charged with a politically-motivated shooting in as many years, following a 2020 shooting at an Oñate statue in Albuquerque (charges related to the shooting were dropped in that case) and a series of shootings at Democrat officials’ homes allegedly carried out by failed Republican candidate Solomon Peña.

Threats against Democrats in New Mexico, some encouraged by Republican elected officials, have proliferated in recent weeks following governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s controversial emergency order banning public carrying of firearms in Bernalillo County.

Shooter “had an evil smile”

The affidavit describes the shooting and subsequent arrest and interview of Martinez. According to a witness interviewed by New Mexico State Police, Martinez and a group of protesters in support of the statue arrived at the prayer vigil Thursday morning and began agitating the peaceful prayer group.

Martinez, wearing a Make America Great Again hat, was “walking around and trying to provoke negative reactions with various people,” according to the witness. The witness told state police she “noticed something out of the ordinary about Ryan” and had children present at the vigil congregate around a shrine that had been set up outside the county building where the statue’s installation was planned.

According to the witness, Martinez tried to reach the area where the children were gathered, but a group of peacekeepers blocked his way. After hopping the small wall surrounding the plaza, Martinez shot Johns and then pointed his gun at the witness, the affidavit says. The witness said Martinez “had an evil smile.”

Another witness interviewed by state police said Martinez and other men in MAGA hats were “walking around and acting as if they wanted to start something,” according to the affidavit. That witness said Martinez was “making racist comments to children” prior to the shooting.

“I showed Ryan the photo and he chuckled”

Martinez fled the scene in a white Tesla and was pursued by an attendee of the prayer vigil before police pulled him over, according to the affidavit. He was taken to the Española Police Department interview room, where he was questioned by state police.

A state police officer who interviewed him said in the affidavit that Martinez had “a smirk on his face” and “asked if someone who attempted a murder would be allowed to walk out.” The officer informed Martinez the decision would be made by a judge, and Martinez replied that was “crazy and stupid.” The officer then showed Martinez a photo of himself wearing the same clothes and pointing the gun at the prayer vigil. “I showed Ryan the photo and he chuckled,” the officer wrote in the affidavit.

Videos reviewed by the officer and described in the affidavit seem to be consistent with witness statements, and the officer described watching a video that shows Martinez “attempting to rush the shrine and being stopped by a group of men.”

“As Ryan [retreated] back over the short wall a man can be heard saying let him go. The group of men do not try to pursue Ryan, and Ryan pulled his hand gun from his waist band and shoots,” the affidavit says. “Ryan then drops the angle he is pointing, raises it again and points his handgun once more.”

Martinez was charged with attempted murder for shooting Johns and aggravated assault for pointing his gun at the witness, court records show.

Martinez appeared in court Friday morning, but did not enter a plea, according to court records. He has requested a public defender to represent him, telling the court he cannot hire an attorney himself, records show. Martinez does not have any prior misdemeanor or felony convictions, and the court’s pretrial services has recommended he be released without cash bail, court records show.

Shooter embraced conspiracy theories on social media

Source NM reviewed Martinez’s Facebook page and found that he embraced pro-Trump conspiracy theories, declaring “TRUMP WON” in his bio on the social-media site. Martinez also endorsed a conspiracy theory that Republican Blake Masters beat Democrat Mark Kelly in Arizona’s Senate race, and uploaded a photo of himself wearing a MAGA hat and standing in front of a Gadsden flag, a symbol that has been embraced by the far right in recent years.

In 2021, Martinez uploaded a photo of himself standing next to a white Mercedes-Benz with a handgun tucked into his waistband.

In the days leading up to the shooting, he posted two articles about the plan to place the Oñate statue in Española. The statue was removed in 2020 during national controversy over racist monuments in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Martinez follows several right-wing and conspiracy pages on Facebook, including the page for MyPillow, the company founded by election-denying conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell. He also follows failed Secretary of State candidate Audrey Trujillo, a major proponent in the state of the false claim that Trump won the 2020 election.

Immediately after the shooting, Trujillo raised doubts about the incident, writing “Why was this guy from Washington here at the protest? What were they protesting? Didn’t they cancel this?  So many questions!”

Martinez is due back in court Monday for a bond hearing.

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