Solomon Peña’s plan to shoot up Democrats’ houses was motivated by false claims of a stolen election, New Mexico authorities say
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The arrest of a losing candidate for the New Mexico legislature on charges of orchestrating a conspiracy to shoot the homes of four Democratic officials in Albuquerque prompted widespread condemnation on Tuesday, as well as accusations that the rhetoric of the stolen Elections among supporters of former President Donald Trump continue to call for violence.
Following Monday’s arrest, new details about the alleged conspiracy emerged Tuesday, including how close a hail of bullets got to a state senator’s sleeping 10-year-old daughter. Albuquerque police said in the indictment documents released Tuesday that Solomon Peña, 39, who lost a House seat nearly 2-1 in November but complained his loss was rigged, hatched the conspiracy. Police accused him of conspiring with four accomplices to drive past officers’ homes and shoot at them.
Peña “provided firearms and cash payments and personally participated in at least one shooting,” the documents said. They claimed he intended to cause “serious injury or death” to people in their homes, the documents say. The group are said to have stolen at least two cars used in the incidents, police said.
One of the targets of the attack said the shootings are part of a line of violence based on Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, which includes the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
“You don’t think it would happen here that someone would do something like that to local officials,” said former Bernalillo Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, whose home was shelled on Dec. 11. “There’s been this narrative for a long time: If you don’t assert yourself, it’s okay to be violent. The message came from above. It came from Trump.”
According to the indictment documents, the latest incident occurred on Jan. 3 when at least a dozen shots were fired at Senator Linda Lopez (D)’s Albuquerque home.
Lopez told police she initially thought the loud bang she heard just after midnight was fireworks. But in the middle of the night her 10-year-old daughter woke up thinking a spider had crawled all over her face and wondered why her bed felt like it was filled with sand.
At daybreak, Lopez noticed holes in the house, which led her to suspect gunshots. When she realized it was drywall dust from bullet holes that had woken her daughter, she called authorities, according to the indictment papers. The documents also allege that Peña personally took part in the Lopez shooting because he was unhappy that previous shootings were aimed “so high up at the walls.”
Peña brought an automatic rifle to Lopez’s home, but it jammed during the incident and did not fire, according to the documents.
Police charged Peña with staged similar attacks in December at the homes of New Mexico State Assemblyman Javier Martinez in Albuquerque, Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, and County Commissioner O’Malley at the time to have. They didn’t say if the shots fired at those houses came close to hitting anyone. Lopez, Martinez and Barboa could not be reached for comment.
Prior to his candidacy, Peña served nearly seven years in prison on convictions related to a robbery involving burglary, theft and involvement in a minor’s crime.
In an interview, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said he had no doubt Peña was motivated by Trump’s false claims of voter fraud following the former president’s 2020 defeat. Medina said Peña regularly expressed extreme views on social media, boasting about attending Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.
“The person we are accusing believed in this conspiracy,” Medina said. “He believed his election was unfair and he escalated, resorting to violence to seek justice.”
Medina said federal law enforcement is also investigating possible federal firearms violations related to the shootings and whether Peña took part in the Jan. 6 riots. An FBI spokesman said the agency is helping local authorities with their investigation and declined to comment further.
Trump spokesman 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 it and any other claim is absolutely 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 (D) said Peña visited the homes of all four victims in the days leading up to the attacks to convince them that the result of his election had been rigged. “What’s absolutely disturbing and terrifying is that from there he literally contracted felons who had warrants shooting at their homes,” Keller said. “That’s the leap he made in a matter of days.”
Keller said it’s not clear why Peña didn’t target his opponent, Democratic Rep. Miguel Garcia. He said police collected an overwhelming amount of evidence, including bullet casings found at the crime scenes and in the stolen vehicles recovered, as well as text message instructions, including the addresses of the targets, from Peña to his alleged co-conspirators.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, an outspoken critic of the rhetoric used by election deniers and a target of frequent online attacks, called on Republicans to condemn the violence in Albuquerque and urged voters to reject candidates who don’t.
She cited the conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the recent attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of the former House Speaker, as other disturbing examples of political violence.
“It’s horrific,” Griswold said. “There are so many people who have to look over their shoulders in fear in an atmosphere of political violence. As a nation, we’re just lucky the bullets didn’t land.”
Some Republicans joined in the condemnations. Ryan Lane, the Republican leader of the New Mexico House, commended law enforcement for their speedy investigation. “Republicans in the New Mexico House condemn violence in all forms and are grateful no one was hurt,” Lane said.
The New Mexico Republican Party issued a statement late Tuesday that made no mention of Peña’s candidacy or his denial of the election results, but said the allegations against him “are serious and he should be held accountable if the charges come forward.” be upheld by the court”.
The incident also prompted a new push towards gun control. In Santa Fe, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) called for an assault weapons ban in an address to the state legislature on the first day of its 2023 session. “There are elected officials in this room today whose homes have been shot at in despicable acts of political violence,” she said.
According to the indictment, Peña conspired with four other men and hatched a plan to steal cars to use during the attacks and then abandon them. Subsequent investigations into stolen vehicles found with matching shell casings appear to confirm this plan, police said.
Police said they examined the cell phone of one of the alleged co-conspirators, Demitrio Trujillo, and found that Peña had sent him the addresses of the targets and that Trujillo then checked his phone for the addresses.
According to the police report, Peña began organizing the shootings shortly after the election. On November 12, he texted Trujillo with Barboa’s address. A week and a half later, Peña Trujillo wrote a passage from an unknown book.
“Only the added incentive of an impending civil war has empowered a president to complete the reformist project,” the text reads.
On December 8, Peña sent the address of Martinez, whose home was attacked that night, and that of O’Malley. The texts between Peña and Trujillo included plans to meet in parking lots, shops and fast-food restaurants, according to the police report.
The indictment documents also included the recollections of an unnamed confidential informant who said Peña was not happy that the shootings were taking place late at night when they were less likely to hurt anyone.
“Solomon wanted the gunfire to be more aggressive” and “wanted them to aim lower and fire around 8 p.m. because the inmates were less likely to lie down,” the documents say.
According to the documents, Jose Trujillo was arrested less than an hour after the Lopez shooting and just a few miles away after being pulled over for an expired registration in a Peña-registered Nissan Maxima. In addition to two guns found in the trunk, police found 800 pills believed to be fake oxycodone and cash. Police also discovered that Trujillo had issued an arrest warrant for him.
Police said Peña paid his co-conspirators at least $500 for their roles.
O’Malley told the Washington Post that Peña visited her home on November 10, days after he lost the election.
“He was excited and aggressive and upset that he didn’t win,” O’Malley said. Peña told O’Malley that he had been knocking on countless doors in his district, which should have resulted in more votes. She refused his request to sign a document claiming the election was fraudulent, so he left.
A week later, on December 11, a loud bang — “like a fist just banging on our front door,” she said — woke her and her husband. There were four more blows. “Oh my god, gunshots,” she recalled thinking.
No one was injured, but 12 shots were fired at her home. O’Malley said because her grandchildren often stay with them, she now worries what might have happened if they had been there. She said she also worries about what the attacks mean for democracy.
“Someone has threatened my home and thinks it’s okay to shoot at my home where my family is because they didn’t get their way,” she said. “I absolutely blame election denial and Trump. I can’t tell you what the solution is.”
Devlin Barrett, Isaac Arnsdorf, and Alice Crites contributed to this report.