Former Republican candidate charged in orchestrating attacks on Democrats' homes

 January 19, 2023

A former Republican candidate for state legislature in New Mexico has been arrested in connection with a series of shootings at the Albuquerque homes of Democratic officeholders.

Police in New Mexico charged Solomon Pena, 39, with leading a conspiracy to target four Democratic officials.

Republican arrested in shootings

Nobody was injured in the shootings, which spanned a month-long period beginning in early December.

When the shootings were first announced earlier this month, police were reluctant to label them politically motivated, but not anymore. Police used the politically charged term "election denier" to describe Pena, who they said was angry about losing a state House election he believed was rigged.

Before the shootings, he allegedly went to the homes of some of his targets to plead his case.

He was allegedly present, gun in hand, during the last shooting but his firearm jammed. The assailants fired a dozen bullets into the home of State Sen. Linda Lopez, where her 10-year-old daughter was sleeping.

Targeted Democrats

About 40 minutes later, police stopped one of the assailants, Jose Trujillo, who was driving Pena's car, and arrested him on an outstanding felony warrant. Inside the car, police found pills and some firearms, a criminal complaint said.

Pena has been accused of paying Jose Trujillo, Demetrio Trujillo, and two unidentified brothers to target Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, and state Rep. Javier Martinez, as well as Lopez. All four are Democrats.

Police initially identified two more shootings nearby the former campaign office of New Mexico attorney general Raul Torrez and at the office of state Sen. Moe Maestas, but Pena has not been connected with either of those incidents.

Pena, who had his first court appearance Wednesday, faces multiple counts of shooting at a home and shooting from a motor vehicle, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, conspiracy and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

"Election denier"

The suspect had a criminal record before entering politics, having served time for retail theft. He is a Trump supporter and attended the "Stop the Steal" rally near the White House that preceded the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.

Police chief Harold Medina didn't hesitate to tie Pena's actions to former President Trump, telling the Washington Post that Pena was undoubtedly radicalized by the "conspiracy" that the 2020 election was stolen.

Albuquerque's Democratic mayor Tim Keller called Pena an "election denier," messaging that was echoed by the Biden administration, which said "disinformation" played a role in the attacks.

A Trump spokesman called it "appalling that some people would use this tragedy to try to score cheap political points," adding, "President Trump had nothing to do with this and any assertion otherwise is totally reprehensible.”

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