On January 17, APD reported that it has arrested former Republican Candidate for the New Mexico State House Solomon Peña during a SWAT situation in connection to at least 4 recent shootings of local Democratic lawmakers’ homes. APD further announced that they believe he conspired with and paid at least 4 other men to carry out the shootings.
Around 3 p.m., APD’s SWAT team swarmed a condominium complex near the ABQ BioPark Zoo at a condominium complex at 14th and Coal to execute a search warrant. They announced over bull horns for Peña to surrender believing he was armed and dangerous as drones flew overhead. Peña gave himself up without incident within an hour.
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina first made the announcement on Twitter on Monday, January 16, ahead of a 5 p.m. news conference. Medina wrote on twitter:
“APD has arrested Solomon Peña for the recent shootings at local lawmakers’ homes. Peña, an unsuccessful legislative candidate in the 2022 election, is accused of conspiring with, and paying four other men to shoot at the homes of 2 county commissioners and 2 state legislators.”
FOUR SHOOTINGS REPORTED
During the January 16 news conference, APD reported that they believe Peña orchestrated the shootings.
On December 4 2022 a shooting occurred at the Southeast home of Democrat Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, whose home was struck by 8 bullets
After news of the investigation began to circulate, recently elected Democrat Speaker of the House Javier Martínez and the representative for Southwest Albuquerque District 11, inspected his home and found it had sustained damage from bullets. He had heard gunfire outside his home on December 8 and believes that’s when the shooting occurred.
On December 11 a third shooting occurred at the North Valley home of then-outgoing Democrat Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley whose home was struck by more than 12 bullets.
The fourth shooting happened just after midnight at the home Democrat State Senator Linda Lopez’s on January 3, 2023. This shooting was the break in the case. More than a dozen shots were fired after midnight on January 3, and police received a “ShotSpotter” notification. Senator Lopez later reported that a bullet struck the ceiling of her daughter’s room. She had awoken to gunfire and felt material falling from the ceiling.
In each shooting, no one was hurt but all 4 homes were damaged with gunshot holes.
APD revealed that it is also investigating gunshots fired near the campaign office for Raúl Torrez as he ran for state Attorney General and near the office of State Sen. Antonio “Moe” Maestas. However a department spokesman said detectives don’t have any evidence linking Pena and his alleged accomplices to those shootings at this time.
EVIDENCE LINKING PEÑA TO SHOOTINGS
Peña is among 5 suspects alleged in a conspiracy the he was the mastermind. In a press release, Albuquerque Police said detectives learned that Peña paid the other men cash and sent text messages with their home addresses.
APD said they have evidence that places Peña at the most recent shooting at State Senator Linda Lopez’s home. APD officials said Peña approached the 2 County Commissioners and Senator Linda Lopez at their homes after the November election with paperwork claiming there was fraud involved in his election. Former County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley released to authorities a ring video showing her interaction with Solomon Peña at her home after the election, where Peña hands over paperwork asserting election fraud. APD believes Pena was present for at least one of the shootings and that he fired a gun.
APD investigators revealed during a news conference details that lead to Peña’s arrest. APD Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock with the Investigative Enhancement Division said detectives have electronic and cellphone records, surveillance footage and witnesses “inside and outside of this conspiracy that have helped us weave together what occurred.”
Hartsock had this to say during an afternoon news conference:.
“The evidence that we have is not only firearm, but it’s also from cell phones and electronic records surveillance video and multiple witnesses inside and outside of this conspiracy that have helped us weave together what occurred. … We now have evidence too that Peña himself went on this shooting and actually pulled the trigger on at least one of the firearms that was used. … [As to] the persons doing the shootings, we are still investigating if they were even aware of who these targets were, or if they were just conducting shootings.”
APD said Peña also has a black Audi sedan registered under his name, which matches the description of the vehicle he drove to O’Malley’s house in November.
APD also announced that another suspected connected with the shootings was arrested. Jose Trujillo was arrested in connection on an outstanding felony arrest warrant about an hour after the shooting at Lopez’s home. A Bernalillo County deputy pulled him over, and found more than 800 fentanyl pills and two guns. One of the guns matched to the shooting at Lopez’s home.
Jose Trujillo is being prosecuted federally on drug trafficking and firearm charges. APD did not immediately release the names of the other suspects in that the investigation is continuing. APD said it is still investigating if the paid shooters knew who the targets were.
ABOUT THE REPUBLICAN MAGA SUSPECT
Solomon Peña is a 39-year-old Republican who ran and lost the race for House District 14 to incumbent Democrat State Representative Miguel Garcia in the November 2022 election. He has been described as a Trump MAGA Republican who turned conspiracy theorist.
Peña has repeated claims that the election was rigged. It was reported that he attended the January 6, 2021, riot in Washington, D.C. Peña made claims on social media he should have won the election. He also visited 3 of the targeted officials’ homes unannounced in November complaining the election was fraudulent and that it should not be certified.
Peña’s candidacy came under fired and was challenged by his opponent, long time serving Albuquerque Democrat State Rep. Miguel P. Garcia who filed a court challenge to disqualify him from running because he had been convicted in 2008 of stealing large amounts of goods from several big box retail stores in a reported “smash and grab” scheme. Peña was found guilty of the felony charges and served nearly 7 years in prison.
In September, 2nd Judicial District Judge Joshua Allison ruled that a state law barring felons from holding office unless they are pardoned by the governor is unconstitutional. Peña name was allowed to remain on the ballot. Peña lost the November 8 election by more than 3,600 votes garnering 2,033 votes to Garcia’s 5,679 votes.
On November 15 Pena posted a photo of himself wearing a red “Make America Great Again” sweatshirt that appeared to have been signed in gold by former President Donald Trump. Peña said in his post “Trump just announced for 2024. I stand with him. I never conceded my HD 14 race. Now researching my options.” Peña also posted a photo of himself that appears to be from Washington, D.C., that he said was “one of the last pictures I have of the January 06 trip.”
When someone called Peña a criminal on social media, Peña said this:
“Everyone in the NM government who helped overthrow Trump are the active treasonists who must be placed in Guantanamo Bay Cuba for natural life. Once they are gone I can work on rebuilding Albuquerque.”
The link to the quoted news article is here:
SOMEONE KNOCKIN AT MY DOOR, SOMEONES RINGING MY BELL
Democrat and Former Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, in an interview with the Albuquerque Journal, said that Peña showed up at her home wanting to talk to her about what he alleged was election fraud, telling her he believed he should have received more votes because he had knocked on many doors during his campaign. O’Malley said Peña gave her a packet that included what looked like internet information about voter fraud and a letter. Thereafter, she had no further communication with him.
O’Malley recalled that Peña was not hostile but the encounter was unsettling enough that she notified law enforcement. O’Malley said this about her encounter:
“He gave me some papers and said ‘I want you to respond. … I thought it was odd, and he seemed a little anxious to me and a little, kind of aggressive, and that kind of put me on alert.”
Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa also told the Albuquerque Journal she had a similar encounter with Peña when he showed up on her doorstep asking her not to vote to certify the election results. Barboa said they spoke and he handed her paperwork similar to what others who are questioning elections have given her and other officials during county commission meetings. Commissioner Barboa said she grew worried for Peña during the encounter. She said she thought he was making illogical claims about the results of his own race. Barboa said this:
“He was just sort of all over the place — the things he was putting together weren’t quite connecting or fitting. … You can’t say because you knocked on a thousand doors, you know you got a thousand votes. … I know our addresses are public, but I was a little thrown off because it’s not usual that people come to our door.”
Barboa told the Journal she was pleased that police were able to make an arrest and quell some of her family’s fear. She said the ordeal will change the way she lives and that she is going to pursue new security strategies for herself and her family. Her daughter, she said, has been too afraid to bring her child over since the shooting. Barboa told the Jounral while choking back tears:
“I’m hoping today that this is done that my daughter can bring my grandbaby here again.”
Barboa said it’s distressing that elected officials are now going to take steps to shield themselves from the public. She noted that the New Mexico Legislature has already removed some lawmaker contact information from its website in response.
“All of that is going to change because of this and that breaks my heart as someone who believes the public needs access to our elected officials.”
The link to the full and quoted Journal article is here:
City, County and State Officials were quick to condemn the shootings.
Mayor Tim Keller said this during the press conference:
“APD essentially discovered what we had all feared and what we had suspected, that these shootings were indeed politically motivated. … They were dangerous attacks not only to these individuals … but, fundamentally, also to democracy. … Disagreements take place. We know we don’t always agree with our elected officials, but that should never ever lead to violence. … This was about a right wing radical and election denier who was arrested today, and someone who did the worst imaginable thing you can do when you have a political disagreement, which is turn that to violence – that should never be the case.”
District Attorney Sam Bregman had this to say during the afternoon press conference:
“An attack on an elected official is an attack on democracy, whoever that elected official is Democrat or Republican, and we will hold people responsible for criminal conduct, and make sure we do justice.
KOB 4 Chanel 4 was able to obtain several statements in response to the arrest Monday night.
Republican Party of New Mexico sent the following statement to Channel 4:
“These recent accusations against Solomon Pena are serious, and he should be held accountable if the charges are validated in court. RPNM condemns all forms of violence. We are thankful that nobody was injured by his actions. If Pena is found guilty, he must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham sent the following statement to Channel 4:
“I commend the Albuquerque Police Department, State Police and the District Attorney’s Office for a successful partnership to apprehend the suspected perpetrator. There is no place in our society or our democracy for violence against any elected official or their families, and I trust the justice system will hold those responsible for such attacks to full and fair account.”
Republican House Minority Leader Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, issued a statement applauding law enforcement and condemning violence. Lane said the New Mexico House Republicans are grateful no one was injured in the shootings and referenced Pena’s criminal past which had been a controversial issue during the campaign. Lane said this:
“This is yet another example of a convicted felon unlawfully gaining access to firearms, which they are barred from owning or possessing, and using the weapon in a manner that causes public harm.”
New Mexico House Speaker Nominee Javier Martínez also sent KOB 4 a statement saying:
“I deeply appreciate our Albuquerque Police Department for their hard work throughout the investigation into these shootings targeting elected officials. I am grateful a suspect is in custody, and I trust our justice system will hold those responsible accountable. We have seen far too much political violence lately and all of these events are powerful reminders that stirring up fear, heightening tensions, and stoking hatred can have devastating consequences.”
Commissioner Adriann Barboa, Vice-Chair, Bernalillo County Commission sent the following statement to Channel 4:
“I am relieved to hear of the arrest of Solomon Pena in relation to shootings at my home and the homes other New Mexico elected officials. I am still shocked this happened. Processing this attack continues to be incredibly heavy, especially knowing that other women and people of color elected officials, with children and grandbabies, were targeted.
It has always meant so much to me that in our state elected officials are especially accessible; making it possible for New Mexicans to share their stories, expertise, and critiques. Solomon Pena is an election denier. He weaponized those dangerous thoughts to threaten me and others, causing serious trauma.
When politicians at the highest levels of our government continue to make threats and violence a regular part of public discourse, it has real impacts on our democracy and lives. Gun violence has deep impacts across our country and here at home in New Mexico.
In early December, I returned from Christmas shopping to my home being shot up; it was terrifying. My house had four shots through the front door and windows, where just hours before my grandbaby and I were playing in the living room. Too many of the people I love, my neighbors, and our communities have been impacted by violence like this; we must do more to end gun violence in and against our communities.”
Former Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley voiced her gratitude and relief about the arrest.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It was fitting that Peña was arrested on Martin Luther King day, a day to honor a man who stood for the proposition of non violent politcal protest and who was assassinated.
It is pretty god damn disgusting that this level of violence against our elected officials has occurred. Such overt acts of violence against elected officials cannot be recalled ever occurring in this city nor the state. Frankly, they were unimaginable, especially in a state known as the Land of Enchantment where the is much tolerance amongst those of different races, cultures and yes political philosophies.
But all that changed, not only here but nationally, on January 6, 2021 and with the United States Capitol riot promoted and encouraged by the fascist former President Donald Trump who has lied repeatedly about the 2020 presidential election proclaiming he won the election and that the election was stolen from him without a shred of evidence.
In his January 6, 2021 hour-long speech, former Trump promoted violence against congress telling the mob to march towards the Capitol, assuring his audience he would be with them, to demand that Congress “only count the electors who have been lawfully slated”, and “patriotically make your voices heard”. Towards his conclusion, he said “we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Over 50 federal lawsuits were filed challenging the 2020 presidential election results and all were dismissed for lack of evidence.
What is truly disgusting is that both the national and state Republican leadership and his followers continue to be election deniers. The actions of MAGA Republican Election denier Solomon Peña is evidence that the disease of political violence has now infiltrated New Mexico politics. There is absolutely no mistake that Peña’s attacks on our elect officials was an attack on our very democracy. He needs to be prosecuted swiftly to the fullest extent of the law and jailed for his conduct as does his Der Führer Donald Trump for instigating and promoting violence and the January 6, 2021 capital riot and attempted coup.