Man accused in protest shooting faces hate crime enhancement

Nov. 3—A Sandia Park man charged with attempted murder and other counts following a shooting at an Española protest over a controversial statue now faces firearm and hate crime sentencing enhancements.

During an arraignment Thursday in a Tierra Amarilla courtroom, 23-year-old Ryan Martinez pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and reckless driving.

The enhancements added by prosecutors could lengthen his prison sentence if a jury finds him guilty.

Martinez is accused of shooting and wounding a Native American protester in late September outside a Rio Arriba County building in Española, where Indigenous groups had gathered in opposition to the planned reinstallation of a 30-year-old statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate and a celebration of its display.

Jacob Johns of Spokane, Wash., was shot in the abdomen and underwent multiple surgeries at a hospital in Albuquerque. Johns is part Hopi and part Akimel O'odham.

During a hearing in October to determine if Martinez would remain jailed until his trial, his defense attorney argued he had fired the shot at Johns in self-defense.

Martinez is being held in the Rio Arriba County jail in Tierra Amarilla until the trial, which is scheduled in May. He faces a potential prison sentence of more than 25 years.

The original felony charges against Martinez could bring a prison sentence of more than 16 years. A spokesman from the District Attorney's Office confirmed an attempted murder conviction would carry a maximum sentence of 15 years, and an aggravated assault conviction could add 18 months.

Two firearm enhancements could add a total of eight years to a prison sentence, and the hate crime enhancement could add a year, a criminal complaint states.

For the hate crime enhancement to take effect, prosecutors would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the shooting was motivated by hatred for the victim's "actual or perceived race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity," according to state law.

Prosecutors allege Martinez shot Johns, an Indigenous climate change activist who had joined local groups at the demonstration, after a scuffle with other Native protesters. Court affidavits say Martinez had attempted to approach a pedestal intended for the statue, where protesters had created an altar, and was heckling protesters before the altercation.

A charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon stems from an allegation that Martinez pointed his handgun at another protester, a member of Ohkay Owingeh pueblo, north of Española.

Although prosecutors indicate in the criminal complaint they intend to pursue firearm enhancements for both the attempted murder charge and the count of aggravated assault, there is no indication they will pursue a hate crime enhancement for the lesser charge.

Several groups called for Martinez to face hate crime charges after the shooting, including the Indigenous rights organization NDN Collective and climate advocacy groups 350 and Climate Action Network International.

John Day, a Santa Fe attorney who is representing Johns, said the family is grateful the District Attorney's Office will pursue the hate crime enhancement, but they also have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue federal hate crime charges.

"In the state's case, this is the most that can be done," Day said Friday. "Jacob and his family are very pleased with the Santa Fe DA, Mary Carmack-Altwies, for announcing they would seek this enhancement — under state law, this is the most that she can do. But we also ask that the U.S. Department of Justice consider this as a hate crime."

Tessa Duberry, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Albuquerque, said Friday no federal charges have been filed against Martinez. She declined to confirm or deny whether federal agents are investigating the incident for potential hate crime charges.

A hate crime conviction in federal court could carry a sentence of up to life in prison for an attempt to kill, according to federal law.

Johns is still recovering from his gunshot wound, Day said. He traveled back to his home state of Washington after his surgeries.

Day declined to discuss whether there were any plans for civil litigation over the incident, saying only that "the option is available to Jacob and his family."