June 19, 2020 / 2:31 PM / 20 days ago

New Mexico protester unarmed when shot: lawyer

TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) - A New Mexico protester was unarmed when he was shot during a demonstration earlier this week to remove a conquistador statue in Albuquerque, the man’s lawyer said.

A video of the incident appears to show protester Scott Williams, 39, picking up a skateboard and hitting suspected shooter Steven Baca, 31, with it before Baca shoots Williams with a handgun.

“Williams was not armed and that is clear when he picked up the skateboard,” his attorney Laura Schauer Ives said late Thursday. “It does not make sense that he would pick up a skateboard if he had a weapon,” she added.

Monday’s shooting incident has raised questions about why Albuquerque police did not intervene sooner as civilian vigilantes and members of a heavily armed militia tried to protect the statue from protesters who wanted to pull it down.

A New Mexico prosecutor on Wednesday dropped a shooting charge against Baca, of Albuquerque and called for further investigation after allegations Williams was armed.

Williams, an artist and a student at the University of New Mexico, was in stable condition after receiving multiple gunshot wounds to his torso, Schauer Ives said.

Jason Bowles, an attorney representing Baca, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bowles previously said Baca, who was defending the statue, would plead not guilty to remaining charges against him, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Albuquerque Police Department Commander Art Sanchez on Wednesday said officers did not intervene sooner in the standoff as they did not want to escalate the situation.

Anti-racism protesters angered by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, have tried to topple sculptures of Spanish conquistadors and colonial rulers associated with subjugation of indigenous people.

The city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Thursday removed a statue of colonial governor Diego de Vargas before a planned demonstration against it.

Reporting By Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Dan Grebler

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