New Mexico authorities have revealed new details about a spate of shootings at Democratic officials’ homes and the failed GOP candidate accused of masterminding the attacks.
Solomon Peña, who lost a 2022 run for state House District 14, is accused of hiring and conspiring with four men to shoot at the homes of two state legislators and two county commissioners. He was arrested by a police SWAT team Monday.
Peña’s arrest warrant affidavit identifies two of the alleged co-conspirators as Demetrio Trujillo and José Trujillo. According to a relative, Demetrio Trujillo is José Trujillo’s father.
“There is probable cause to believe that soon after this unsuccessful campaign, he (Peña) conspired with Demetrio, José, and two brothers, to commit these four shootings at elected local and state government officials’ homes,” Albuquerque police wrote in the affidavit.
“Solomon provided firearms and cash payments and personally participated in at least one shooting.”
Peña appeared in an Albuquerque court Wednesday where prosecutors filed a motion for pretrial detention and the case was transferred from metropolitan court to district court. A district judge has five days to hold a hearing on whether Peña stays detained or is released with conditions. Until then, he is being held without bail.
Peña, clad in a red jail jumpsuit with his wrists and ankles shackled, was calm. He nodded and gave a thumbs-up to the judge in response to a question.
Defense attorney Roberta Yurcic said in a statement: “At this point, the charges against Mr. Peña are merely accusations that have not yet been tested by the full rigor of the judicial process. … Mr. Peña and I look forward to a full and fair investigation of these claims. I plan to fully defend Mr. Peña and fiercely safeguard his rights throughout this process.”
Attempts to reach attorneys for the Trujillos have not been successful.
Now, police are investigating whether Peña met one of the alleged conspirators in the same prison where they both served time.
And a former campaign staffer describes how the GOP candidate lambasted Republicans who didn’t support Trump.
According to Albuquerque police:
• Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa’s home was shot at multiple times on December 4.
• Incoming state House Speaker Javier Martinez’s home was shot at on December 8.
• Former Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley’s home was shot at on December 11.
• State Sen. Linda Lopez’s home was shot at on January 3.
• Peña went to another commissioner’s home to discuss the election, but that commissioner “never reported any shots fired,” Albuquerque police said.
• Peña is also accused of trying to participate in at least one of the shootings himself, Albuquerque police said.
No one was injured in any of the shootings, which included at least one bullet flying through a child’s bedroom while she was inside, police said.
After losing the election, Peña approached a state senator and two county commissioners at their homes with paperwork claiming there was fraud involved in the elections, Albuquerque police said.
An investigation found “these shootings were indeed politically motivated,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said.
False and unfounded claims about election fraud have exploded nationwide in recent years and fueled anger and threats of violence against elected officials – even in local politics.
Peña faces preliminary charges of felon in possession of a firearm; attempted aggravated battery with a deadly weapon; criminal solicitation; and four counts each of shooting at an occupied dwelling, shooting at or from a motor vehicle, and conspiracy, according to a warrant.
Peña previously served almost seven years in prison after a 2008 conviction for stealing a large volume of goods in a “smash and grab scheme,” CNN affiliate KOAT reported.
Police are investigating how Peña may have known the alleged co-conspirators – and whether he met one of them while in prison.
“We’re still looking into that,” Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said Wednesday.
“Obviously, Mr. Pena was a resident of our prison facility in New Mexico for a period of time, and one of the other individuals was also a member of the same prison. And we’re looking to see if they knew each other, and if there was a relationship during their time in prison together, or if they made friends outside.”
José Trujillo is already facing federal prosecution related to his arrest on weapons and drug trafficking charges, according to documents from the US Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico.
He appeared in federal court on January 10 on charges of possession of a modified fully automatic weapon, possession with intent to distribute more than 40 grams but less than 400 grams of fentanyl, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, court documents say.
Trujillo’s attorney, Martin Juarez, was granted a stay to have him evaluated for mental competency to stand trial, according to the documents. The judge did not specify a deadline for the competency evaluation.
A former campaign staffer for Peña said the candidate would chastise Republicans he believed didn’t support former president Donald Trump and recalled an instance when Peña “called out” another Republican politician for “being anti-Trump.”
“He would talk trash about other people in the party all the time,” said the former staffer, who worked for Peña’s campaign last spring.
The staffer described the months working for Peña as a “headache” and eventually quit the campaign over “differing views.”
Barboa, the county commissioner whose home was shot at multiple times on December 4, told CNN about an encounter with Peña before the shooting.
“He was saying that the elections were fake,” Barboa recalled Tuesday. “I didn’t feel threatened at the time, but I did feel like he was erratic.”
Similarly, O’Malley – the former Bernalillo county commissioner – told police Peña was at her home just days before the December 11 shooting there, according to an arrest warrant affidavit obtained from Albuquerque police.
“Debbie recalled that he was upset that he had not won the election for public office, even though Debbie O’Malley was not a contender,” the affidavit says.
Ring doorbell camera footage recorded at O’Malley’s previous residence and obtained by CNN shows Peña approaching the door and knocking, holding documents in his hands.
The current resident speaks to him through the camera’s speaker feature, telling him O’Malley no longer lives at that residence and directing him to her new home.
While no one was injured in any of the shootings, Peña “intended to (cause) serious injury or cause death to occupants inside their homes,” an arrest warrant affidavit reads.
“There is probable cause to believe that soon after his unsuccessful (political) campaign, he conspired … to commit these four shootings” at the officials’ homes, the affidavit states.
And firearm evidence, surveillance footage, witness accounts plus cell phone and electronic records helped officials connect five people to the alleged conspiracy, Albuquerque police Deputy Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock said.
Peña was first connected to the January 3 shooting at Lopez’s home.
That day, Lopez “heard loud bangs but dismissed them as fireworks at the time,” she told police.
But her 10-year-old daughter woke up thinking a spider was crawling on her face and that there was sand in her bed. It turned out to be sheetrock dust that was blown onto the child’s face from a bullet passing through her bedroom, the affidavit says.
Police later found “12 impacts” at the state senator’s home and shell casings nearby, according to the affidavit.
About 40 minutes after the shooting, a deputy spotted a silver Nissan Maxima with “an improperly displayed license plate sticker” about four miles from Lopez’s home and made a traffic stop, the affidavit states.
The Nissan was registered to Peña – but it was driven by José Trujillo, who had a felony warrant out for his arrest, the affidavit states.
In the trunk, the deputy found a Glock handgun with a drum magazine and an AR pistol, police said. The handgun matched the shell casings from the lawmaker’s home, police said.
Investigators then connected Peña to the shootings at the other officials’ homes. On Monday, detectives served search warrants at Peña’s apartment and the home of two men allegedly paid by Peña, police said.
One of the conspirators initially told shooters “to aim above the windows to avoid striking anyone inside,” the affidavit reads, citing a confidential witness with knowledge of the alleged conspiracy.
But Peña eventually wanted the shooters to be “more aggressive” and “aim lower and shoot around 8 p.m. because occupants would more likely not be laying down,” the affidavit says, citing the confidential witness.
In the latest shooting, police found evidence “Peña himself went … and actually pulled the trigger on at least one of the firearms that was used,” Hartsock said. But an AR handgun he tried to use malfunctioned, and more than a dozen rounds were fired by another shooter, a police news release said.
Authorities are still investigating whether those suspected of carrying out the shootings were “even aware of who these targets were or if they were just conducting shootings,” Hartsock said.
Peña, who lost the election to Democratic state Rep. Miguel Garcia 26% to 74% – had publicly alleged that the race was rigged, his Twitter account shows.
“Trump just announced for 2024. I stand with him. I never conceded my HD 14 race. Now researching my options,” Peña tweeted November 15 after losing his race.
On January 2, in response to someone who asked him whether his election was rigged, Peña tweeted: “Si, mine was also rigged. And I will fight it until the day I die.”
The most recent time Peña tweeted that he did not lose the election was on January 9, when he posted “When we finally defeat the rigged NM elections, oh, the hero I will be! MAGA nation 4ever!”
Keller, the Democratic mayor of Albuquerque, called Peña a “right-wing radical” and a “dangerous criminal.”
“This type of radicalism is a threat to our nation and has made its way to our doorstep right here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but we will continue will push back against hate,” Keller said in a statement.
“Differences of opinion are fundamental to democracy, but disagreements should never lead to violence.”
Bernalillo County’s district attorney said he will personally prosecute the case against Peña because he’s “pissed off” about what he calls “an attack on our democracy.”
“When you attack elected officials with violence, it is an attack on our democracy. It is unacceptable at every level. It doesn’t matter if they’re Democrats or Republicans,” District Attorney Sam Bregman said.
“Quite frankly, the community’s pissed off about this stuff. And so am I.”