The law firm representing the man who was shot during a protest against the statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate in Old Town on Monday night has sent a letter to city and county agencies announcing its intention to file suit on his behalf and asking that evidence be preserved.
The tort claims notice was sent to the city and the Albuquerque Police Department and includes the possible claims of negligence resulting in battery; conspiracy to violate civil rights, violations of the rights to equal protection, substantive due process, and right to peacefully assemble; denial of access to the court; defamation and slander. The Bernalillo County Clerk and the Bernalillo County Risk Management also received the letter.
Spokespeople for APD and the city did not immediately respond to comment Friday evening.
Although the suspect in the shooting, 31-year-old Steven Ray Baca, was initially charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office has since said that holes in the investigation – as well as APD undercover officers’ involvement as witnesses – led him to drop the charge and request further investigation. The New Mexico State Police is now investigating and Baca is charged with aggravated battery, two counts of petty misdemeanor battery and carrying a gun without a concealed carry license.
In the letter, attorney Laura Schauer Ives recounted the events at the protest that led to her client, Scott Williams, being shot. She said Baca had careened into many protesters and “inexplicably and distinctly battered three women, throwing one of them to the ground,” leading the crowd to turn on him.
Two people chased after Baca and he pulled out a gun and pepper spray, according to the letter. That’s when Williams, 39, intervened and picked up a skateboard to hit the gun out of Baca’s hands. Williams was shot multiple times.
Schauer Ives said her client was holding a vape pen, not a knife as some have alleged on social media.
According to the letter:
• After repeated calls for assistance, APD finally deployed the officers who had been behind the Albuquerque Museum as the events unfolded.
• APD officers didn’t secure the scene of the crime, treated the attendees as suspects, failed to take statements, obscured their lapel videos, and piled all the weapons recovered from the New Mexico Civil Guard members together.
• APD crafted a biased and inaccurate criminal complaint charging Baca and has not produced an evidence inventory or Baca’s cellphone to the District Attorney’s Office.
• APD released Williams’s name to national and local press and now he is getting “death threats from domestic terrorists.”
The letter also serves as a notice for the entities to preserve all records, including tactical plans, body-worn camera footage, cellphones used by officers at the scene and more.