NEW YORK – Two archbishops on different ends of the United States are separately calling for prayers and peace this week, after gun violence incidents in each archdiocese left people hospitalized.
The more recent of the two incidents was in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, where five people were wounded late Oct. 3 when gunfire erupted outside of a homecoming event on the Morgan State University campus. The other incident took place in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, where a dispute led a young man to fire one shot from a gun, hitting and wounding one person.
In Baltimore, four of the five people who were shot were students. Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley said at a news briefing that the shooting likely stemmed from a dispute between two small groups. No suspects have been taken into custody as of the afternoon of Oct. 4.
“One individual was a target of two individuals who had weapons. We don’t believe that individual was hit,” Worley said. “We believe the five victims who were hit were unintended targets.”
On Oct. 4, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore called for prayers and peace.
“Let us pray God’s comfort and healing reaches all who experienced injury and terror in Tuesday’s shooting on the historic Morgan State University campus,” Lori said in a statement. “We ask Christ our Lord and Savior to bring us deliverance from such violence, and, as we pray, to consider the ways that we might channel God’s peace in our lives and communities.”
“In His holy example, we can find the path forward,” Lori said.
The shooting in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, on Sept. 28, took place after violence broke out during a protest of the decision by local officials to install a statue of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate. One man, Jacob Johns, 39, who is an artist and activist from Spokane, Washington, was shot by 23-year-old Ryan Martinez after a brawl broke out between them and others.
Johns was shot in the upper torso and airlifted to a local hospital. He is in stable condition. Martinez was arrested and faces charges of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Issuing a joint statement with Regis Pecos, the former governor of Cochiti Pueblo where the violence took place, Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe said “the violence witnessed in Rio Arriba County on September 28, stemming from the reinstallation of a statue, should raise alarms for everyone, regardless of our ancestral histories and current ideologies.”
“We pray for the families who experienced this violence and for the family of the shooter,” Wester and Pecos said.
Oñate has long been a controversial figure in the state’s history for his oppressive treatment of Native Americans in Spain’s conquest of the modern day Southwestern United States. Yet there are also Hispanics who point to the statue as a symbol of their heritage.
The protest and ensuing violence of the statue took place in Española in front of the Rio Arriba county offices where the statue was set to be installed. Prior to the protest, the installation was already postponed by local officials because of safety concerns.
Before pulling out his gun Martinez got into arguments with protestors and was told by law enforcement officials to leave, but ultimately was allowed to stay. Thereafter, video captured by onlookers shows Martinez getting into a fight with a small group of the protestors who appear to try and subdue him as others shouted for them to let him go. He then broke free of their grasp, hopped over a short barrier wall, pulled out his gun and fired one shot before fleeing the site.
Martinez was wearing a green sweatshirt and a “Make America Great Again” hat. Court documents later revealed threatening social media posts Martinez made dating back to 2018, which prompted the FBI to investigate and interview him.
In their statement, Wester and Pecos highlighted the importance of dialogue between people on both sides of the debate over honoring Oñate.
“In the midst of this sad event, we should cling to the hope of dialogue and communal respect and love experienced in 2018, with the redefining of the Santa Fe Fiestas and Entrada,” Wester and Pecos said. “With groups coming together in mutual respect, a great reconciliation took place, as people of goodwill shared their values and found common ground.”
“To complete the task of recognizing the dignity of all human beings given us through the wonderful gift of New Mexico’s multi-cultural experiences, this convening and dialogue must be kept at the forefront of our continuing journey learning from the hardship of violence,” they continued.
The community leaders also called for people “to be patient and compassionate with one another.”
“We must ask ourselves, what do we want our children and future generations to inherit from us?,” Wester and Pecos said. “Violence should never be the answer. Violence is devastating our children and families. Our shared faith calls upon all of us to stand together against such actions destroying our community spirit and vitality.”
Follow John Lavenburg on X: @johnlavenburg