June 2, 2023

Former GOP candidate faces federal charges for shootings of homes of prominent Dems

A federal grand jury indicted the man and two alleged co-conspirators who allegedly shot at prominent Albuquerque Democrats’ homes in late 2022 this week.

Former Republican state house candidate Solomon Peña and alleged co-conspirators Demetrio Trujillo and Jose Louise Trujillo were charged on counts including conspiracy, interference with federally protected activities and using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a violent crime, possessing a firearm in furtherance of such crime and aiding and abetting in all but the conspiracy count.

U.S. District Judge Kea W. Riggs unsealed the federal court documents on May 31.

In 2022, Peña ran for the state House District 14 seat against incumbent Democrat Miguel Garcia. Garcia won the race with 74 percent of the vote to Peña’s 26 percent.

“Refusing to accept his electoral defeat, Peña organized a shooting spree that targeted the homes of four elected officials and their families,” court records state. 

The shootings took place between Dec. 4 , and Jan. 3.

Peña allegedly “carried out the shootings with the knowing and willful assistance of Demetrio Trujillo, Jose Louise Trujillo, and others, who assisted Peña in securing vehicles and firearms, including one machine gun, for the purpose of firing upon the homes of the elected officials, and, for some of the shootings, pulled the trigger themselves to fire bullets into the homes of the victims,” court records state.

More: Former Republican legislative candidate arrested over shootings targeting Democratic politicians’ houses

In January, reports of shots being fired at prominent Albuquerque Democrats’ homes came out. These shootings were at the homes of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, then-Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, state Sen. Linda Lopez and state Rep. Javier Martinez. State Sen. Anthony “Moe” Maestas’ law office and Attorney General Raúl Torrez’s campaign headquarters also reported shootings.

The shootings at Maestas’ law office and Torrez’s campaign headquarters were not part of the Peña conspiracy, according to law enforcement.

Conspiratorial texts

Peña was on the Nov. 8 general election ballot which he lost by a 1-to-3 margin. The Bernalillo County Commission in its capacity as the county canvass board certified the election results on Nov. 21.

According to court records, Peña, the Trujillos and possibly others were in contact between Nov. 12 and Jan. 3 planning the shootings.

The way the alleged conspirators went through with the shootings included obtaining vehicles, including allegedly stealing them, allegedly making arrangements as to who would be in the conspiracy and how they would be paid, allegedly coordinating the conspiracy’s actions including meeting and shootings via text messages, phone calls and in-person meetings, allegedly obtaining, moving and concealing firearms including a machine gun and allegedly shooting at victims’ vehicles and residences, court records state.

One of the people listed in the grand jury indictment was a “CANDIDATE 1” who was the Republican candidate for state House District 11 seat, according to the Secretary of State’s website, this was Lisa Meyer-Hagen who ran against current District 11 Rep. Javier Martinez, who currently serves as the house speaker. Meyer-Hagen has not been charged with a crime

“On or about November 13, 2022, Peña sent a text message to (Meyer-Hagen)… with the following text: ‘We have to press the attack. They want us to become hopeless and give up,’” court records state. 

When the Bernalillo County Commission certified the election’s results on Nov. 21, the grand jury indictment states that Peña sent a text message to Jose Louise Trujillo that “They just certified it. They sold us out to the highest bidder.” To which Trujillo replied “Really” and Peña responded “Sí. Just now. They were literally laughing at us while they were doing it.” To which Trujillo replied that “Well I need to meet up and talk to you as soon as you can.”

In the early morning of Dec. 4, Peña allegedly sent a text to Meyer-Hagen that “We can’t just sit around being angry. We have to act. I’m continuing my study of election rigging. The enemy will eventually break, because they are committing intentional wrongs, and all humans eventually make mistakes.”

The first of the shootings took place that same afternoon.

The shootings allegedly took place after Peña texted the victim’s addresses to the Trujillos and other alleged conspirators.

The trio were also charged with possessing with the intent to distribute fentanyl and possessing a firearm.

In Peña’s New Mexico case, he was sent to pre-trial detention on Jan. 24 and remains detained despite an appeal. 

The Secretary of State responds

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver who has been open about her office’s work to combat the misinformation and conspiracy theories that may have led Peña to his alleged crimes.

“The political violence allegedly perpetrated by Solomon Pena and his accomplices is a sobering reminder of how unfounded conspiracy theories and election denialism have real world consequences. Political violence in our democracy must be repudiated at every turn and I am pleased to see the federal government pursuing this case with the seriousness it deserves,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement after the judge unsealed the federal charges.

The shooting happened within weeks of the 2023 Legislative Session’s opening day.

SB 180 which establishes election changes allows public officials to have their addresses be confidential.

The SOS is working to establish rules to set up  “procedures for the secretary of state and county clerks for the non-disclosure of home addresses for public officials and candidates on election and financial-related documents,”and is a direct response to doxxing, threats, and instances of harassment and violence that have befallen public officials in recent years,” SOS spokesman Alex Curtas said,

The office held a hearing on the rules on May 26. No other hearings are expected in this matter.

Toulouse Oliver also testified in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration in March about election security.

“After an individual earlier this year, influenced by election misinformation, allegedly orchestrated drive-by shootings at the homes of six elected officials in New Mexico’s biggest city, a provision was included in the bill that shields the home addresses of elected or appointed officials from public disclosure (with some exceptions,” Toulouse Oliver told the Committee referencing Peña.

For more information on the proposed rulemaking visit Public Official Home Address Home Confidentiality | Maggie Toulouse Oliver – New Mexico Secretary of State (nm.gov).