Former GOP Candidate Charged With Election Interference in Shootings at Albuquerque Lawmakers’ Homes

Wim De Gent
By Wim De Gent
June 1, 2023US News
Former GOP Candidate Charged With Election Interference in Shootings at Albuquerque Lawmakers’ Homes
Solomon Peña (C), a Republican candidate for New Mexico House District 14, is taken into custody by Albuquerque, New Mexico, police officers, in southwest Albuquerque, on Jan. 16, 2023. (Roberto E. Rosales/The Albuquerque Journal via AP, File)

A grand jury has indicted a failed political candidate on federal charges in connection with multiple drive-by shootings at the Albuquerque homes of state and local officials in December 2022 and January of this year.

Former Republican candidate Solomon Peña and two alleged accomplices were indicted for election interference, conspiracy, and weapons-related charges on Wednesday, in connection with shootings on the homes of four Democratic lawmakers, including the current state House Speaker Javier Martínez.

No one was killed or injured in the shootings.

The attacks came after Peña lost his bid for a state House seat in November 2022.

Private communications including text messages by Peña in the days following the midterm election allege election rigging, pinpoint the locations of the targeted homes, and mention his plans to “press the attack.”

Text messages included in the indictment allegedly show that Peña was outraged at his crushing election defeat. When Bernalillo County Commission certified the elections, convinced that he had been cheated out of his House seat, Peña allegedly decided it was time to take action.

Peña allegedly hired two men to conduct the shootings and was directly involved in at least one shooting himself, authorities said.

Hours before the first attack on Dec. 4, 2022, Peña allegedly texted a political ally who had also lost his election bid. “We have to act,” he wrote. “I’m continuing my study of election rigging. The enemy will eventually break.”

“Peña targeted several of these public officials because, in their official capacity, they certified the election, which he lost,” U.S. Attorney Alexander 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,” he added.

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

Elizabeth Honce, Peña’s attorney, said her client maintains his innocence. Peña was arrested in January and has been detained without bail.

Federal charges were also filed against the two men suspected of carrying out the shootings, the 22-year-old Jose Louise Trujillo and the 41-year-old Demetrio Trujillo. The two are also accused of assisting Peña in obtaining vehicles and firearms.

Jose Trujillo was arrested in January on an open, unrelated warrant. Police found more than 800 fentanyl pills and two firearms in his car. Investigators traced at least one gun to bullet casings found at one of the shootings.

The break in the investigation led to the arrest of Demetrio Trujillo on Wednesday, authorities said.

The first shooting occurred on Dec. 4, when eight rounds were fired at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. Days later, Martínez’s home was targeted. The following week, on Dec. 11, more than a dozen shots were fired at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley. Martínez became the Democratic state House speaker in January.

The final shooting targeted state Sen. Linda Lopez’s home around midnight on Jan. 3. Here too, more than a dozen shots were fired. Police said Peña was personally present at this shooting.

According to Lopez, three bullets entered the bedroom of her sleeping 10-year-old daughter.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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