Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Three years later, health problems linger for La Jornada shooting victim 

Content warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of gun violence.

Scott Williams walks with a slight limp. It always seems like his right foot feels asleep. He no longer has good dreams, and feels tense around large crowds of people.

These are the lingering health effects for Williams, more than three years after Steven Ray Baca was recorded on video shooting him four times at close range with a .40-caliber handgun, ending a protest on June 15, 2020 at the statue depicting Spanish colonizer Juan de Oñate called La Jornada at Tiguex Park in Albuquerque’s Old Town neighborhood.

“Things will always be different,” Williams said. “It (f***ed) me up in ways that don’t make sense, and I can’t control.”

Now, Williams is speaking out after the special prosecutor assigned to the case dropped the criminal charge against Baca for shooting him.

I don’t believe — and through this entire process, have never believed — that putting Baca in prison, putting a man in a cage, is going to change anything for the better.

One of three victims

Williams, a prison-industrial complex abolitionist, initially struggled a lot with even cooperating with Bernalillo County prosecutors.

He decided to do so after speaking with four survivors of the Charlottesville car murder that killed Heather Heyer. Those four themselves are also abolitionists but all testified against the neo-Nazi killer in that trial.

Baca is shown on video physically assaulting the two others, and will face sentencing for those crimes next month. Both of Baca’s other victims asked Williams to testify and talk to prosecutors, so he agreed to do so in solidarity with them.

For the last three years, Williams says prosecutors have strung him along by telling him a life-changing event — Baca’s trial — was just a few months away.

He now feels immense resentment to the entire criminal legal system. He said he never saw even a chance for any kind of real justice in the entire prosecution process.

“I don’t believe — and through this entire process, have never believed — that putting Baca in prison, putting a man in a cage, is going to change anything for the better,” Williams said. “All it’s going to do is make him a worse person, make the world worse, and make prosecutors stronger.”



Baca takes a plea deal

On July 13, 2020, then-deputy Bernalillo County district attorney R. John Duran accused Baca of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm for what he did to Williams.

Two years later, Duran’s boss, district attorney Raúl Torrez, won the 2022 midterm election for New Mexico attorney general.

“The way it looks to me, is Raúl didn’t want to try the case because it’s a political case, and it’s going to polarize people either direction, and he knew he was going to run for AG, so he delayed it, and delayed it, and delayed it, and he’s like, ‘I’ll dump it on the next prosecutor,’” Williams said.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham then appointed Albuquerque attorney Sam Bregman to replace Torrez. 

Bregman then quickly appointed private attorney David Foster to take over the case against Baca as a special prosecutor in January.

“I wanted to let you know that we will be tendering a proposed plea in this matter that does not include a criminal charge related to Mr. Williams as that count will be dismissed as part of a plea agreement,” Foster wrote in an email to Williams’s attorney on April 21.

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Then in June, Foster, Baca, and his attorney Diego Esquibel, signed a plea and disposition agreement which dismissed the count of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm.

Baca pleaded no contest to aggravated battery, for harming a second protester. He pleaded guilty to battery for harming a third protester, and to unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon.

Even though Foster is a state official in his capacity as special prosecutor in the Baca case, he has so far ignored multiple requests for comment from Source NM since he was appointed in January.

The most recent phone call that Foster ignored was on Wednesday, Aug. 2.

Through a spokesperson, Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman declined to comment for this story. Whenever a prosecutor hands a case off, they are typically discouraged from being involved in it at all.

According to the plea agreement, Baca could face a sentence ranging from probation to up to two years minus one day of incarceration. He has waived his right to appeal his convictions.

Baca is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Brett R. Loveless on Sept. 6.

A series of close calls

Williams clearly remembers almost everything about the shooting — except for the sound of gunshots.

“I didn’t realize he was firing a gun until I smelled the gunpowder,” he said.

He is not sure in what order the first three shots happened. One went exactly dead center into each of his butt cheeks.

The one on the left came out through his groin and entered his leg, and nicked his femoral artery.

“If it had torn my femoral artery, I would have been (f***ing) dead,” Williams said. “In the time that it took, no question. I bled out a lot. But it didn’t sever it. That alone, saved my life.”

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The second bullet went into his right butt cheek, and also came out of his groin. But neither of them hit reproductive organs, bladder, or his digestive system.

The other in the first group of three shots, which is thought to be the third shot, was directly in Williams’ back, about a half-inch to the left of his spine.

The fourth and final shot, according to the video, is when he turned and tried to run.

The bullet went through both his lungs. It somehow ricocheted and nicked his liver, and came out his side and into his arm.

Williams made it a couple steps and dropped. He later learned the liver is the only organ that can regenerate.

“By what I think is a lot of grace, and a lot of love, and a lot of prayer, like, I was extraordinarily lucky in where those bullets went,” he said. “It could have been much, much worse. Any of them, literally slightly off course, could have changed everything.”

Being present

Things have cooled down since summer 2020, but Williams remains politically active after all this.

“If anything, it radicalizes me more, makes me more determined, and more down for whatever,” he said.

He is not doing any direct organizing right now but does a little bit here and there with some of the local mutual aid crews in Albuquerque, and The Red Nation.

“Their whole crew has been incredible throughout all of this,” Williams said. “They have shown me a lot of love and solidarity.”

This spring and summer have been the first since the shooting when Williams has been really physically active, he said. He’s been doing lots of boating and river rafting.

“It’s both simple recreation and also like, deep connection to nature,” he said. “Connection to flow state, those situations where everything else in the world completely disappears and you’re just exactly where you are. That’s been really huge.”

Source New Mexico’s National Editor Marisa Demarco did not assign, discuss or edit this story due to a conflict-of-interest concern.

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