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U.S. Attorney’s Office declines to comment on whether they will charge 2023 Oñate statue shooter with a hate crime

The person recorded on video shooting a Hopi, Akimel O’odham activist in Española on Sept. 28 is being prosecuted by the state of New Mexico for attempted murder and aggravated assault.

Meanwhile, the victim, Jacob Johns, along with civil society groups in and outside of New Mexico, are asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute the shooter for a hate crime under federal law.

John Day, Johns’ attorney, said the shooter’s actions against the Indigenous activist and artist meet all of the elements of a hate crime. He said his client had gathered with others in a religious ceremony and a peaceful prayer event outside the Rio Arriba County headquarters in Española.

“This is a hate crime,” Day said in a news release on Monday. “It needs to be recognized and prosecuted as such.”

Day said his client’s heroism in protecting the lives of innocent people, including children, is important on its own but said there is a larger principle at stake: “We cannot afford to minimize or normalize targeting lawful, peaceful assembly of people with violent crime because they belong to a different group.”

“It threatens anyone’s right to peaceably assemble or simply belong to a faith community,” Day said. “It should concern all people, whatever faith or community you belong to.”