ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Police says a former New Mexico House candidate who lost his election in November is now accused of conspiring to shoot at the homes of four Albuquerque lawmakers in December and January. The department made the announcement late Monday afternoon, saying Solomon Peña is accused of shooting at the homes of two Democratic Bernalillo County commissioners and two Democratic state lawmakers.

A 39-year-old Republican, Peña ran and lost the race for House District 14 in the November 2022 election. APD arrested Peña during a SWAT situation Monday afternoon near downtown Albuquerque.

Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina first made the announcement on Twitter Monday ahead of a 5 p.m. news conference. Medina wrote that Peña is “accused of conspiring with and paying four other men to shoot at the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators.”

Peña is among five suspects alleged in the conspiracy. In a press release published Monday, Albuquerque Police said detectives learned that Peña paid the men cash and sent text messages with the address where he wanted them to shoot at the homes” in December and January.

The arrest drew strong reactions from Democrats and Republicans Monday. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller called the shootings “politically motivated,” saying the case is about political radicalism. New Mexico House Republican Leader Ryan Lane sent a statement, in part, condemning violence.

The case first hit public view on January 5, 2023. Albuquerque Police announced an open investigation into shootings at multiple elected officials homes and offices. On January 9, the department announced that one person had been arrested in the case, but officials refused to release the name of the suspect as detectives remained tight lipped about the ongoing investigation.

Peña was arrested at a condominium complex at 14th and Coal around 3 p.m. Monday. KRQE News 13 cameras captured Peña being detained by APD’s SWAT team and other officers.

Solomon Peña seen in the custody of Albuquerque Police SWAT on Monday afternoon, January 16, 2023. (Photo: Vince Autry | KRQE News 13)

Following Peña’s arrest Monday, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina called Peña the “mastermind” behind the shootings. Police believe he orchestrated a December 4, 2022, shooting at Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa’s home, followed by a December 8 shooting at New Mexico House Speaker Javier Martinez’s home.

A third shooting occurred at the home of then-outgoing Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley on December 11. The fourth shooting happened just after midnight at state Senator Linda Lopez’s home on January 3, 2023. In each shooting, no one was hurt.

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The investigation

Peña is facing multiple charges in New Mexico state district court. A criminal complaint indicates 15 counts against Peña for crimes including possession of a firearm, shooting at a dwelling or occupied building, shooting at or from a motor vehicle, attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit a shooting at a dwelling or occupied building, and criminal solicitation to commit a shooting a dwelling or occupied building. Peña is expected to make a first appearance in court on Wednesday, January 18.

“The evidence we have is not only firearms, it’s also cell phones and electronic records, surveillance video and multiple witnesses inside and outside this conspiracy that have helped us weave together what occurred,” said Kyle Hartsock, deputy commander of Albuquerque Police’s Criminal Investigations Division. “On the last shooting, we now have evidence too that Peña himself went on the shooting and actually pulled the trigger on at least one of the firearms that was used.”

APD Chief Medina said Monday that detectives helped crack the case due to partnerships and technology used by the department. As it turns out, APD arrested one of the suspects, Jose Trujillo, less than an hour after the shooting at Lopez’s home.

“It was unknown that this individual [Trujillo] was involved in any type of crime,” said Medina, speaking of what a deputy knew of Trujillo at the time of his arrest. “A Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy pulled the individual over, took him into custody, and tagged a firearm into custody.”

Medina says days after that firearm was tagged into evidence, investigators got a hit on the gun. The gun recovered from Trujillo’s vehicle matched with shell casings collected at the scene of the shooting at Linda Lopez’s home.

When Trujillo was arrested, a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy is said to have found 800 fentanyl pills in the center console of the car and two guns in the trunk. APD says one of the guns was a Glock handgun with a drum magazine and the other was an AR pistol.

“We’re still doing more warrants and interviewing more persons, we know we’re not at the end yet,” Hartsock said Monday. So far, only Peña has been charged in the conspiracy, according to APD.

However, Hartsock said “other people are going to face charges, or they already are, but they’re in different stages of the investigation.” Hartsock said because of the nature of the investigation, the department wouldn’t release more details on other accused. Some are in custody, and some aren’t, Hartsock said.

Officials react

Reacting to the arrest Monday, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller called the attacks dangerous to the victims and democracy. Referring to the case, Keller said it was “about a right-wing radical” and “election denier.”

“This type of radicalism is a threat to our nation and it has made its way to our door step, right here in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” Keller said. “But I know here, we are going to push back and we will not allow this to cross the threshold.”

APD investigators alleged that Peña showed up at the homes of the county commissioners and state Senator Linda Lopez “uninvited” following the election. APD says Peña “provided them with documents that he said indicated fraud in the election results.”

Peña ran in the November 2022 election as the Republican candidate for House District 14, a seat covering parts of downtown and southwest Albuquerque, west of the Rio Grande. Peña was defeated by Democratic incumbent Miguel Garcia by roughly 3,600 votes. Peña successfully fought to stay on the ballot during the election, after Garcia challenged Peña’s candidacy based on Peña’s criminal record.

House Republican Minority Leader Ryan Lane (R-Aztec) sent a statement following Peña arrest, in part condemning violence. A second term state rep, Lane is his party’s new incoming House leader.

“We appreciate law enforcement’s diligence in pursuing this investigation and we are still learning of this development just as the rest of New Mexico is,” said House Republican Leader Ryan Lane (R-Aztec). “New Mexico House Republicans condemn violence in any form and are grateful no one was injured. 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 Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham also sent a statement. The Governor, who faces the start of the legislative session tomorrow, in part thanked investigators for their work.

“I commend the Albuquerque Police Department, State Police and the District Attorney’s Office for a successful partnership to apprehend the suspected perpetrator.” Governor Lujan Grisham said. “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.”

Federal investigators had previously indicated cooperation in helping address the investigation. However, Peña currently remains on track to be prosecuted in a state district court. If the case moves forward, Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman’s office would lead the prosecution. Bregman released a statement about the shooting Monday night.

“Any attack on an elected official is an attack on our democracy,” Bregman said in part in the statement. “I applaud the officers of the Albuquerque Police Department who worked nonstop to make arrests in this case. Our office worked night and day with APD on this investigation.”