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Failed GOP candidate charged in connection with drive-by shootings at homes of New Mexico lawmakers

Ex-GOP candidate in court for attacks against Dems
Former New Mexico GOP candidate in court for attacks targeting Democrats 02:19

A failed political candidate has been indicted on federal charges including election interference in connection with a series of drive-by shootings at the homes of state and local lawmakers in Albuquerque, according to a grand jury indictment that was unsealed Wednesday.

The indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque takes aim at former Republican candidate Solomon Peña and two alleged accomplices with additional conspiracy and weapons-related charges in connection with the shootings in December 2022 and January of this year on the homes of four Democratic officials, including the current state House speaker.

The attacks came amid a surge of threats and acts of intimidation against election workers and public officials across the country after former President Donald Trump and his allies spread false claims about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

U.S. Attorney Alexander Uballez highlighted that the shootings targeted the homes of two county commissioners shortly after their certification of the 2022 election.

"Peña targeted several of these public officials because, in their official capacity, they certified the election, which he lost," Uballez said at a news conference. "In America, voters pick their leaders and would-be leaders don't get to pick which voters they heed, which rules apply to them or which laws to follow."

The shootings began Dec. 4, when eight rounds were fired at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. 

Barboa said Pena had confronted her at her home shortly after the November election. 

"He said, 'I want results now,' and he was definitely aggressive," Barboa said. She said that in December, she came home from Christmas shopping and found evidence of gunfire.

"My home was shot right through my front door, four times, out my back window, right through my living room and kitchen, right where I had been playing, only hours before, with my brand-new grandbaby," Barboa said. 

Days later, state Rep. Javier Martínez's home was targeted. On Dec. 11, more than a dozen rounds were fired at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley, police said. Martínez became the Democratic state House speaker in January.

Mugshot of Solomon Peña.  Metropolitan Detention Center

The final related shooting, targeting state Sen. Linda Lopez's home, unfolded in the midnight hour of Jan. 3. Police said more than a dozen shots were fired, including three Lopez said passed through the bedroom of her sleeping daughter. The girl was reportedly awoken by debris dropping onto her bed. 

The new indictment outlines smartphone communications including text messages by Peña in the days following the Nov. 8, 2022, election that pinpoint the locations of officials' homes, allege election-rigging and confide to a political ally about plans to "press the attack."

Text messages in the indictment show the 40-year-old candidate bristling with outrage as Bernalillo County commissions certified the results of the midterm election and his own overwhelming defeat as a candidate for a seat in the state House of Representatives. Federal authorities say Peña hired others to conduct the shootings and carried out at least one shooting himself.

Hours before the first shooting on Dec. 4, 2022, Peña texted a Republican political ally, who also lost a bid for state representative, to say "we have to act. I'm continuing my study of election rigging. The enemy will eventually break."

Amid the shootings, Peña later texted one of several unnamed conspirators in the indictment to say, "It is our duty as Statesmen and Patriots, to stop the oligarchs from taking over our country."

Elizabeth Honce, a defense attorney for Peña, said her client maintains his innocence. Peña has been held without bail since his January arrest on charges in state district court related to the shootings. Those charges will be dismissed in deference to the federal indictment as Peña is transferred to federal custody, authorities said.

Federal charges were also filed against 22-year-old Jose Louise Trujillo and 41-year-old Demetrio Trujillo alleging they assisted Peña in obtaining vehicles and firearms — and that they "pulled the trigger themselves to fire bullets into the homes of the victims."

Jose Trujillo was arrested in January on an outstanding warrant in a car with a stash of more than 800 fentanyl pills and two firearms, leading to a break in the investigation as officers traced at least one gun to bullet casings found the same day at one of the shootings. Authorities say Demetrio Trujillo was arrested Wednesday, while they declined to comment directly on whether several unnamed accomplices in the indictment would be charged.

John Anderson, an attorney for Jose Trujillo, declined to comment on the indictment when contacted Wednesday.

Police have described Peña as the instigator of a politically motivated conspiracy leading to shootings at the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators. Charges against the three defendants include the use of an automatic weapon.

Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico secretary of state, said she was "pleased to see the federal government pursuing this case with the seriousness it deserves."

Following the shootings, New Mexico state lawmakers this year enacted legislation that provides felony sanctions for intimidation of election regulators and allows some public officials and political candidates to keep home addresses off government websites.

Recent assaults on politicians or their households include the hammer-wielding attack on the husband of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in October 2022 at the couple's San Francisco home. In July 2022, a man clutching a pointed weapon assaulted Republican candidate for New York governor Lee Zeldin — a congressman at the time — on stage at a speaking event.

Officials are also investigating the source of some of Peña's campaign contributions. Trujillo and his mother both donated thousands of dollars to the Peña campaign. Those donations "represent nearly 40% of the money raised by Pena," the APD said in January. 

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