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Statement from Family of Indigenous Activist, Jacob Johns, Shot Last Week at Peaceful Prayer Circle

For Immediate release October 3rd, 2023


Sabrina Chapa Anthony Diaz

Statement from Family of Indigenous Activist, Jacob Johns, Shot Last Week at Peaceful Prayer Circle

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. 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.

The family wishes to keep attention on a narrative of unity, not instead of division. It is essential to center the perspectives of all those involved in the spiritual event and those impacted from the violence. The physical, mental, and emotional trauma this has caused to Jacob will be lifelong. Jacob is not the only victim here. The physical trauma was with Jacob but there are other emotional traumas that were inflicted on the full community including the women, children and elders that were present that day and their stories must be told.

At the foremost, it is essential that this incident is not described as a clash between protestors. Indigenous community members were conducting a peaceful and spiritual assembly when they were attacked and made victims of an attempted mass murder. It is only because the shooter’s gun jammed that Malaya Peixinho and others were not also injured or worse. (For a more detailed account of the incident, please see this press release from The Red Nation.)

Second: While police were present earlier in the day and had previously escorted the shooter away for disruptive behavior, they later permitted the shooter to return and then left, abandoning peaceful demonstrators despite the clear threat. LaVerne McGrath, Jacob’s mother, hopes that this tragedy can lead to systemic changes in which threats to Indigenous Peoples and other historically oppressed peoples are not downplayed.

Third: The shooter made the point to introduce himself to members of the media and requested that he was photographed and filmed. Coverage that provides the notoriety he clearly sought exacerbates the harm he has perpetrated on Jacob and his loved ones, the Tewa community and all Black, Indigenous and People of Color for whom racial violence creates ongoing trauma.

Though he remains in jail today, our work must continue to ensure that the shooter accounts for his crimes in the justice system. New Mexico’s justice system has an opportunity to send a message now that violence targeting BIPOC people will not go without firm consequence. The state of New Mexico has a chance to ensure the safety of all residents’ right to celebrate, pray, protest, and mourn by supporting systemic change that centers community safety and well-being. The family is asking for full accountability to set precedence on this evil act to ensure that we stop white supremacy in all its forms and ensure community safety.

Jacob Johns’ Family’s Demands

  • To the District Court Judge: Approve the motion to prevent the shooter’s release and instead keep him in pre-trial custody, as he poses a significant risk to our community and all communities.

  • To the Arriba County Prosecutor and First Judicial District Attorney: Add federal hate crime to the list of charges, and to seek the maximum sentence. This was a racially and culturally motivated hate crime and must be treated as such.

  • To the public: Continue to support the family and their monetary needs:

  • To Rio Arriba County Officials and the State of New Mexico: Assure the Oñate statue is not reinstalled, and that all monuments and statues that glorify or celebrate genocide are taken down.

  • To the media: Stop showing the pictures and videos of the shooter which can encourage similar violence and instead show the pictures and videos of the reality of the harm that was done to Jacob John’s and his family. (Link to photos provided by the family)


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