Solomon Peña, a Republican who lost his campaign for the New Mexico legislature, was arrested by Albuquerque police officers on Jan. 16 in connection with a plot to target Democratic officials in a string of shootings at the lawmakers’ homes between early December and early January.
Pena is accused of conspiring with and paying four other men to shoot at the homes of two Bernalillo County commissioners and two state legislators after he was soundly defeated in November.
Although court records identify him as Solomon Peña, the alleged Republican terrorist spells his name as Pena on his website, social media and in correspondence.
Pena, who lost by nearly 50 percentage points, claimed without evidence that the vote was rigged despite the fact that since 1992, the county has has tilted strongly Democratic in almost every election, similar to most urban counties.
No one was hurt in the attacks, but those targeted spoke of fear and shock after learning of the plot orchestrated by the Trump Republican, who said he was “researching my options” in a social media comment he posted a week after losing a race by a significant margin, garnering 2,033 votes to his opponent’s 5,679.
Incumbent Rep. Miguel P. Garcia challenged Pena’s candidacy because he is a felon convicted in a “smash and grab” robbery in 2008, but a judge allowed the Republican to stay on the ballot.
Police said that following his loss in the race for a state House seat, Pena approached the four Democrats to assert without proof that the election was fraudulent.
Ballistic evidence, text messages, searches on Apple maps and statements from a “confidential witness” were key in making the case against the Republican loser, who was charged with four counts each of shooting at a dwelling, shooting at or from a motor vehicle and conspiracy to commit a shooting at a dwelling; and one count each of possession of a firearm by a felon, attempt to commit aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and criminal solicitation to commit a shooting at a dwelling.
Following the arrest, new details emerged about the alleged conspiracy, including how close a spray of bullets came to the sleeping 10-year-old daughter of a state senator.
“I am still shocked this happened,” said County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, one of four officials whose homes were shot at. “Solomon Pena is an election denier. He weaponized those dangerous thoughts to threaten me and others, causing serious trauma.”
According to a criminal complaint, when Barboa’s home was struck by gunfire on the afternoon of Dec. 4, neighbors reported that a truck was possibly involved.
That same day, a woman reported her SUV had been stolen and then found it less than half a mile from Barboa’s house. Casings found inside the vehicle matched those found outside the victim’s house.
State Rep. Javier Martínez’s home was shot up on Dec. 8, but casings were not found and compared to those in the other shooting until a month later.
County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley’s home was struck by about 12 rounds on Dec. 12, she told investigators about an odd visit she’d had from Pena, who wanted to talk about what he believed was election fraud.
Security camera footage of that visit showed Pena arriving at O’Malley’s house in a black 2022 Audi, which investigators say matched the description of the car witnesses said was used in the shooting.
Then, a little after midnight on Jan. 3, a detection system registered gunfire near state Sen. Linda Lopez’s home. An officer arrived and collected casings but at the time Lopez said she thought the loud bangs were fireworks.
Lopez’s 10-year-old daughter told her mother that she thought a spider had crawled on her face while she slept and it felt like sand was in her bed. When the sun rose, Lopez realized that the sand was actually sheetrock dust, dislodged by bullets passing through the bedroom.
About 40 minutes after that gunfire, a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy arrested 21-year-old Jose Trujillo on a warrant after stopping him for an expired registration about five miles away. The car he was driving was registered to Pena.
Trujillo had more than 800 suspected fentanyl pills, a large amount of cash, a Glock handgun with a drum magazine and an AR-15 with him, according to the complaint. He is now facing federal drug trafficking and firearm charges.
Last week, detectives executed a search warrant on the phone of 41-year-old Demetrio Trujillo, who is in jail on charges of receiving or transferring a stolen motor vehicle, possession of a controlled substance and tampering with evidence.
Pena “provided firearms and cash payments and personally participated in at least one shooting,” according to the complaint.
The complaint alleged the Republican loser intended to cause “serious injury or death” to the people inside their homes, and that the accomplices allegedly stole at least two cars used in the incidents.
In an interview, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said he has no doubt that Peña was motivated by Trump’s false claims of election fraud following the former president’s 2020 defeat. Medina said Peña regularly expressed extreme views on social media and boasted of attending Trump’s Stop the Steal rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.
“The individual that we’re charging believed in that conspiracy,” Medina said. “He did believe that his election was unfair and he did escalate and resort to violence as a means to find justice.”
Medina said federal law enforcement is also investigating potential federal firearms violations related to the shootings, as well as whether Peña participated in the Jan. 6 riots.
An FBI spokesman said the agency is assisting local authorities in their investigation and declined to comment further.
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship communications executive and Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung called it “appalling that some people would use this tragedy to try to score cheap political points. President Trump had nothing to do with this and any assertion otherwise is totally reprehensible.”
Lawyers for Peña and two of his alleged co-conspirators, Demitrio Trujillo and Jose Trujillo, could not be reached for comment.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Peña visited all four targets’ homes in the days leading up to the attacks, seeking to persuade them that the result of his election had been rigged.
“What’s absolutely disturbing and terrifying is that he went from that to literally contracting felons who were out on warrant to shoot up their houses,” Keller said. “That’s the leap he took within a matter of days.”
Keller said it is not clear why Peña did not target his opponent, Garcia, but claimed police have collected an overwhelming amount of evidence, including shell casings found at the crime scenes and in the recovered stolen vehicles as well as texted instructions, including the targets’ addresses, from Peña to his alleged co-conspirators.
After Americans decisively rejected the re-election of Republican President Donald Trump, the 2020 election loser told people that he was cheated, but he lies were not supported by any proof. The election loser also lost about 60 court cases and numerous Republicans declared his lies —to quote Trump’s own attorney general — “bullshit” but millions of GOP voters believed what they wanted to believe, despite the truth.
Those lies incited a failed coup d’état at the US Capitol, where a mob of Trump-loving terrorists stormed the building to interrupt congressional proceedings on January 6, 2021, and now the same lies inspired a man who lost an election by almost three to one to fire guns at members of the other political party.
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