Indigenous activist Jacob Johns filed a lawsuit Jan. 23 against Ryan Martinez, the man who shot him at a Rio Arriba County rally last year, as well as Martinez’s parents.
Martinez remains incarcerated pending trial on charges of attempted murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. His lawyers argued in court that the 23-year-old admits shooting Johns at the Sept. 28, 2023 event, but did so in self-defense.
Prosecutors in the criminal case and Johns’ new civil case, however, allege Martinez went to a peaceful event with the intention of hurting and killing others. He drove, heavily-armed and wearing a MAGA hat, from his home in Sandia Park to Española, where Indigenous activists had planned a celebration in response to Rio Arriba County’s decision to delay installation of a statue honoring Spanish colonizer Juan de Oñate. Johns, who is of Hopi, Gila River Indian Community and Akmiel O’odham descent, was visiting New Mexico at the time from his home in the Pacific Northwest.
In the complaint filed in First Judicial District Court, attorneys John Day and Joleen Youngers claim Johns has cause for action because Martinez caused him “personal injury, mental and emotional stress and damages.” Johns was hospitalized for five weeks after the shooting, during which time doctors performed four surgeries. He has returned home to Spokane, Washington, where he continues a painful recovery from damage to his spleen, liver and stomach, the court filing notes. Johns was able, however, to attend the United Nations’ annual climate conference in Dubai last month, and told a The Spokane Spokesman Review he plans to also attend a conference at the end of the year in Azerbaijan.
Johns also wants the court to hold Martinez’s parents Bryan Anthony and Adelita Martinez accountable. The lawsuit alleges the couple acted negligently because they knew their son, who lived in their Sandia Park home, possessed illegal firearms and “routinely engaged in dangerous and exceptionally disturbing behavior while living with them.” In one example, the lawsuit claims, neighbors reported Ryan Martinez “walking around at night wearing body armor and carrying an AR-15-style assault rifle and carrying a handgun.”
The parents are also at fault, the lawsuit alleges, because they allowed Martinez to drive their car to the event at which he shot Johns.
Police who arrested Martinez after he fled the scene in his parents’ car recovered the 9mm Glock handgun Martinez shot, as well as a second loaded gun. Police also recovered firearms from his bedroom in his parents’ home, including an illegally modified AR-15 and 3D printed gun parts that allow semi-automatic rifles to be illegally converted to fully automatic fire. Prosecutors have not filed any charges against them regarding the shooting, First Judicial District Attorney spokesman Nathan Lederman tells SFR.
Day said in statement the case will demonstrate that Martinez’s parents were “fully aware that their son engaged in frightening gun activity on their property,” adding later, “the message is that if you engage in racist, hate-filled violence against Indigenous people you will pay a steep penalty, in both criminal court and civil court. "
Editor’s note: An earlier version gave the wrong date the lawsuit was filed and has been corrected.