Man accused in near fatal shooting of Native activist remains in detention
Wednesday, October 4, 2023
By Acee Agoyo
A man accused of shooting a Native activist remains behind bars after his attempted murder case was suddenly transferred to a new court in New Mexico.
As anticipated, Ryan David Martinez, 23, made his second appearance before a magistrate judge in Rio Arriba County on Monday morning. But before his attorney could even discuss his potential release, the criminal defendant was immediately told he was going to stay locked up.
“The sole purpose for today’s setting is to advise you this,” Magistrate Judge Alexandra C. Naranjo told the man accused of shooting Native activist Jacob Johns in the chest at an otherwise peaceful gathering last week. “The state of New Mexico — through the district attorney’s office — filed a pretrial detention for you.”
“What that means, Mr. Martinez, is this court no longer has jurisdiction over your case and now it will be transferred to district court for further action,” Naranjo said.
Amid the quick ruling, public defender Jennifer Burrill objected. She said the pretrial detention was being pursued by the state without appropriate notice — and apparently without the required paperwork.
“The state filed for a 24-hour continuance on September 29th,” Burrill said, referencing the day Martinez after was arrested for the near deadly shooting that took place on county property in Española.
“The first appearance was 10 o’clock Friday morning,” the public defense attorney continued, citing his prior court date. “As of 11 o’clock this morning, it has not been filed. They failed to meet the 24-hour deadline and we’d ask for support to set conditions of release.”
Naranjo, who is based in Española, acknowledged a possible mixup regarding Martinez’s first appearance, which was handled by someone else — Magistrate Judge Joseph Madrid. But she was firm with her decision that keeps the defendant in detention.
“I don’t know what happened,” Naranjo said in reference to last week’s court hearing. “And at this time, my ruling stands — his case will be transferred to district court for further action. Mr. Martinez, you’re free to step out.”
Martinez appeared in court via video link from what Naranjo described as the Rio Arriba County Detention Center. At the beginning of the 11:30am proceeding, he was told his rights and replied that he understood them.
“Yes, your honor,” Martinez said while seated in the detention center, wearing inmate orange clothing. “Thank you.”
A screenshot from the website for the Rio Arriba Public Inmate Information shows details for Ryan David Martinez, 23, the man accused of a near fatal shooting of a Native activist in New Mexico.Rio Arriba’s public inmate information site shows Martinez has been in detention since September 28, the day of the violent incident. He’s being held at a facility in Tierra Amarilla, the county seat, which is more than an hour’s drive north of Española.
Newly filed online records show Martinez’s criminal case has been assigned to District Court Judge Jason Lidyard, who is based at the county courthouse in Tierra Amarilla. The location is not only further from Española, it’s further from the places where most Native people live in Rio Arriba.
Should Martinez’s case go to trial, a jury would be selected from people on the county’s voter registration, motor vehicle and personal income tax lists. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 17.2 percent of the overall population in Rio Arriba self-identify as American Indian or Alaska Native as of 2020.
But very few Native people live close to Tierra Amarilla — fewer than 150, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The county seat instead has been known historically as an area where Hispanic and Latino activists have asserted their rights.
Still, even in areas closer to Native communities — Ohkay Owingeh and the Pueblo of Santa Clara — official spaces often ignore their presence. The
Oñate Monument Resource and Visitors Center, which is operated by the county in a small community called Alcalde, states that its purpose is to promote “knowledge and appreciation of the origins of the Hispaño culture” in the region.
The monument was created in honor of Juan de Oñate, a colonial figure reviled for his acts of violence against Native people in the 1500s and 1600s. In one egregious incident, he ordered a massacre at the Pueblo of Acoma, leading to the deaths of 800 women, children and men. He then forced most adult male survivors into enslavement — a punishment resulting in the amputation of their right foot.
“For Indigenous people, Oñate represents the terror of the Spaniards who systematically violated our ancestors in the seventeenth century,” Dr. Jennifer Denetdale, a Dine scholar who serves as chair of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, wrote in an opinion on Indianz.Com. “He is the symbol of systemic violence, anti-Indianism, that Indigenous people endure into the present.”
The county removed the Oñate from the site in Alcalde amid Native-led protests in June 2020, giving no indication of plans for the controversial bronze figure. Then last month, officials surprised the public by announcing their plans to resurrect the statue — whose original right foot was cut off decades ago — at a government building in Española, a border town to Ohkay Owingeh and the Pueblo of Santa Clara.
Native groups like The Red Nation responded by organizing and leading peaceful protests at the new site in Española. Despite objections, county officials planned to reinstall the statue on the morning of September 28, before abruptly postponing the ceremony on the evening prior.
Native America Calling: Worries rise over latest violence at protests – October 3, 2023 | Download (Duration: 55:23 — 38.0MB)
The development didn’t stop the accused shooter from going to the Native gathering, even though Española is far from his home. During an appearance on Native America Calling on Tuesday, Pueblo activist Jennifer Marley of The Red Nation said it wasn’t too surprising for someone like Ryan David Martinez to show up in his “Make America Great Again” hat.
“In 2020, we saw that somebody was willing to kill to protect these statues,” said Marley, who is from the Pueblo of San Ildefonso, whose reservation is also near Española. She witnessed the violent incident last Thursday, providing a video statement not long after the attack.
The prior shooting took place in June 2020, during protests against a different Oñate monument in Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico. The defendant, Steven Ray Baca, has pleaded no contest to aggravated battery and guilty to battery and unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon for the incident. He was due to be sentenced last month but the hearing has since been postponed to November.
The Rio Arriba County Courthouse in Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico, is the new site of the criminal proceedings against Ryan David Martinez, 23, the man accused for the near fatal shooting of a Native activist. Photo: Jimmy Emerson, DVM
As for Martinez, he is being detained on one count of attempted murder in the first degree and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for the shooting in Española. He has yet to enter any pleas in connection with the charges, according to online records from the newly filed case in district court.
His next court appearance is scheduled to take place at 8am on October 13. State prosecutors are seeking to ensure Martinez remains detained pending trial, with online records showing the “Dangerousness and Preliminary Hearing” will be held in person in Tierra Amarilla.
The new case in district court is State of New Mexico v. Ryan Martinez, D-117-PD-202300036.
The prior case that was in magistrate court was State of New Mexico v. Ryan David Martinez, M-43-FR-202300421. Records are available on caselookup.nmcourts.gov.
The victim of the shooting, activist and artist
Jacob Johns, who is from the Hopi Tribe and Akimel O’odham from the Gila River Indian Community, has been receiving treatment in Albuquerque. An online fundraiser shows more than $223,000 has been raised as of Wednesday morning to support his medical expenses.
“For generations, Indigenous Peoples have faced harm, death, and systemic oppression. Last week’s premeditated shooting is just another historical event in a series of systemic injustices in Indigenous history,” his family said in a statement shared by The Red Nation on Wednesday. “This intentional premeditated act of violence was perpetrated against a peaceful prayer camp located at the proposed site for the reinstallation of the Oñate statue. This draws attention to the lengthy history of injustices against Indigenous Peoples by dehumanizing systems and divisive ideologies the community was protesting.”
A second fundraiser has been started to support Johns’ family, including his teenage daughter.