John Pete Talamante was booked Friday on charges of kidnapping, aggravated battery and assault with intent to commit a violent felony.
Talamante was being held without bond in the McKinley County Detention Center, said Gallup police Chief Sylvester Stanley. More arrests were likely, he said.
The victim, 32-year-old Fausto Arellano, remained hospitalized in critical condition. He had been bound by the ankles and pulled by a rope for some 4,000 feet on Easter morning, according to police.
Stanley said narcotics could be an "indirect motive" in the dragging, but added that officers had no indication that Arellano was involved in drugs.
The single father, who was born in Mexico and lived in the United States, has two sons, ages 16 and 11.
"This man is like Superman to his sons. He is their idol," said Pedro Andablo, Arellano's former brother-in-law.
Police who traced the route of the dragging say the rope snapped or Arellano broke free, and he crawled to the side of the road and collapsed.
Gallup, a town of 20,000 just east of the Arizona state line, is known as one of the largest American Indian trading centers in the Southwest.
Eurell T. Malone, owner of the M & M Trading Co., where Arellano has worked for 10 years, said the crime was senseless.
"You have to be some kind of animal to drag a person behind a car," Malone said. "Everyone's asking, 'Why him? He was a kind and gentle man.'"