NATIONAL NEWS

Federal grand jury charges ex-GOP candidate with shootings on lawmakers’ homes

May 31, 2023, 3:13 PM

FILE - Solomon Peña, center, a Republican candidate for New Mexico House District 14, is taken int...

FILE - Solomon Peña, center, a Republican candidate for New Mexico House District 14, is taken into custody by Albuquerque, New Mexico, Police officers, Jan. 16, 2023, in southwest Albuquerque. Peña has been indicted on federal charges including interference with the electoral process 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, May 31. (Roberto E. Rosales/The Albuquerque Journal via AP, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Roberto E. Rosales/The Albuquerque Journal via AP, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A failed political candidate has been indicted on federal charges including interference with the electoral process 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 failed Republican candidate Solomon Peña and two named accomplices with felony charges of interfering with federally protected activities, as well as weapons-related counts, 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.

The new indictment outlines smart-phone communications including text messages by Peña in the days following the Nov. 8, 2022, election that pinpoint the locations of official’s homes, allege election-rigging and call on conspirators to “press the attack.”

Text messages show Peña bristling with outrage as a county commission certified the results of the midterm election and his own overwhelming defeat as candidate for a seat in the state House of Representatives.

“It is our duty as Statesmen and Patriots, to stop the oligarchs from taking over our country,” Peña texted one of two conspirators who is not named in the indictment.

Federal charges were also filed against Jose Louise Trujillo and Demetrio Trujillo on allegations that they assisted Peña in obtaining vehicles and firearms — and that they “pulled the trigger themselves to fire bullets into the homes of the victims.”

A defense attorney for Peña could not be reached immediately. Peña is being held without bail after his January arrest on charges in state district court that include criminal solicitation to commit a shooting at a dwelling, shooting at a dwelling, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and possession of a firearm by a felon.

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. No one was injured in the shootings but in one case bullets passed through the bedroom of a state senator’s 10-year-old daughter.

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

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 that Lopez said passed through the bedroom of her sleeping 10-year-old daughter.

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Federal grand jury charges ex-GOP candidate with shootings on lawmakers’ homes