Failed Republican candidate charged with shootings at lawmakers’ homes | New Mexico

A failed Republican candidate was 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 unsealed on Wednesday.

The indictment filed in US district court in Albuquerque charges Solomon Peña and two alleged accomplices with additional conspiracy and weapons-related charges in connection with the shootings in December and January on the homes of four Democrats including the current state house speaker.

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

The US 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 told reporters. “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.”

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 indictment outlines smart-phone communications including text messages by Peña in the days following the 8 November election that pinpoint the locations of officials’ homes, allege election-rigging and confide to a politically ally about plans to “press the attack”.

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

Hours before the first shooting on 4 December, Peña texted a Republican 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 texted one of several unnamed conspirators to say: “It is our duty as Statesmen and Patriots, to stop the oligarchs from taking over our country.”

Elizabeth Honce, a defense attorney, said her client maintains his innocence. Peña has been held without bail since his January arrest. State charges will be dismissed in deference to the federal indictment as Peña is transferred to federal custody.

Federal charges were also filed against 22-year-old Jose Trujillo and 41-year-old Demetrio Trujillo on allegations 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 more than 800 fentanyl pills and two firearms. Officers traced at least one gun to bullet casings found the same day at one of the shootings. Authorities said Demetrio Trujillo was arrested on Wednesday. They declined to comment on whether unnamed accomplices would be charged.

John Anderson, an attorney for Jose Trujillo, declined to comment.

Charges against the three defendants include the use of an automatic weapon.

The shootings began on 4 December, when eight rounds were fired at the home of the Bernalillo county commissioner Adriann Barboa. Days later, the home of a state representative, Javier Martínez, was targeted. On 11 December, more than a dozen rounds were fired at the home of the Bernalillo county commissioner Debbie O’Malley. Martínez became the Democratic state House speaker in January.

The final shooting, targeting the home of a state senator, Linda Lopez, unfolded in the midnight hour of 3 January. Police said more than a dozen shots were fired, including three Lopez said passed through the bedroom of her sleeping daughter.

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

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 their addresses off government websites.

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

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