On April 27, 1973, some 200 militant Indians occupied the hamlet of Wounded Knee on the Oglala Sioux reservation in South Dakota. In the name of the American Indian Movement (AIM), Russell Means and Dennis Banks took 11 hostages and began what would become a 75-day siege of the town.
Two days later, in the name of Indians Against Exploitation (IAE), Larry Casuse and Robert Nakaidinae abducted the Mayor of Gallup (Emmet Garcia) from his office and marched him at gunpoint through a part of downtown Gallup. They barricaded themselves in a sporting goods store and demanded political relief and attention to their cause. Nakaidinae shot the mayor as he attempted to escape. He survived his wounds.
Larry Casuse died in a hail of police bullets but was said by the police and the local coroner to have committed suicide. The abduction was apparently carried out because Casuse and Nakaidinae perceived the mayor as symbolic of the way Indians were mistreated in Gallup. They alleged Garcia to be responsible for both Indian alcohol abuse and a general lack of respect for Indians. The abduction in Gallup by militant members of IAE and the siege at Wounded Knee by the militant members of AIM were connected loosely in the press and seemed to be mutually supportive of the broader issue of Indian civil rights.
Casuse was the president of the Kiva Club, an Indian rights group on campus at UNM. He was very vocal in opposing Garcia's appointment to the UNM Board of Regents and his chairmanship of the Indian alcohol rehabilitation project in Gallup. Nakaidinae was also a Kiva Club member.
Garcia was part owner of a package liquor store called The Navajo Inn located on the Arizona/New Mexico border just a few yards away from the Navajo reservation. Garcia was a recent political appointee to the Board of Regents for the University of New Mexico.
The abduction of the Mayor and the death of Casuse were major regional news stories. A great deal of attention was focused on the problem of alcohol abuse among the tens of thousands of Navajos who visit Gallup every week. Some Indians felt that the white population in Gallup disrespected Navajo cultural traditions and didn't do enough to help the Navajo with its historic battle with alcohol abuse. Some whites felt that the Navajos who came to town to drink were a public nuisance.
Largely as a result of the abduction and the resultant publicity, Garcia lost his reelection bid for a second term as mayor on April 3, 1973. He resigned his chairmanship of the Gallup Alcohol Rehabilitation Committee, and his position on the UNM Board of Regents. Then he sold his interest in The Navajo Inn and moved with his family to Arizona in May of 1973. He never returned to Gallup.