Solomon Pena arrested for orchestrating shootings in homes of Democrats

No one was injured in the drive-by shootings, which are taking place amid mounting nationwide threats against congressmen, school board members, election officials and other government employees. A trial began this week in Kansas for a man who prosecutors say threatened to kill a congressman.

The New Mexico Republican Party said, “If Pena is found guilty, he must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Solomon Pena was allegedly motivated by his anger at his landslide defeat in November's elections.

Solomon Pena was allegedly motivated by his anger at his landslide defeat in November’s elections.Credit:AP

Police said Pena had previously turned up uninvited to two elected officials with documents proving he had won his race. There was no evidence of widespread voter fraud or an irregularity in New Mexico in 2020 or 2022 in which there were enough votes to change an outcome.

The criminal complaint, which includes testimony from a confidential witness who said he had “personal and intimate knowledge of the crimes” and was present at most of the attacks, says Pena had a father and a son with a history of his own, as well as two hired brothers , which the authorities have yet to identify. In one of her text messages, Pena complained that officials who confirmed the November election “sold us to the highest bidder.”

The shooting began December 4 when eight rounds were fired at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. Days later, State Representative Javier Martinez’s home was attacked. On December 11, more than a dozen shots were fired at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, police said.

The last related shooting, targeting Senator Linda Lopez’s home, occurred at the midnight hour of January 3. Police said more than a dozen shots were fired, including three that Lopez said went through her sleeping 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom.

The witness said one of the men told the gunners to aim over the windows to avoid hitting anyone inside, but that wasn’t enough for Pena, who wanted them to shoot deeper. He said Pena was present at the Lopez shoot “to ensure better target acquisition.”

The witness said Pena’s gun jammed and did not fire properly, but one of the other men fired multiple shots from a Glock pistol at the Lopez home.

Pena’s insistence that the men would act more aggressively unnerved the other participants “as they knew it would likely result in death or injury,” said the witness, who is being prosecuted and has pleaded for leniency. Authorities said no such promises had been made.

A lawyer for Pena who could comment on the allegations was not listed in the court filing as of Tuesday.

The killing spree was “terrifying, not just from my personal perspective, but the fact that our democratic processes that we believed so much in — and on which our country was founded — would be targeted in this way,” said Martinez, who Democrat lawmakers said at a news conference on his first day as senior speaker of the House of Representatives.

“It’s long overdue that we lower the temperature. Those are the things that can happen when the rhetoric gets out of hand,” Martínez said.

Lawmakers in the Democrat-led state have been careful not to violate the right to bear arms over the years. In Albuquerque, authorities are grappling with escalating gun violence and back-to-back years of record-breaking homicides.

Detectives identified Pena as their prime suspect through a combination of cellphone and vehicle records, witness interviews, and bullet casings collected near victims’ homes.

Technology that can detect the sound of gunfire led an officer to Lopez’s neighborhood shortly after the shots were fired.

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The officer found bullet casings that matched a handgun found later that morning in a Pena-registered Nissan Maxima. Around 1:30 a.m., about an hour after the shooting at Lopez’s home, police pulled up the Nissan about 4 miles from the legislator’s neighborhood.

The driver, identified as Jose Trujillo, was arrested on an outstanding warrant, leading to the discovery of more than 800 fentanyl pills and two firearms in the car.

Authorities said Tuesday the investigation was ongoing and more arrests were expected.

https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/former-republican-candidate-arrested-for-orchestrating-shootings-at-democrat-homes-20230118-p5cdcd.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_world Solomon Pena arrested for orchestrating shootings in homes of Democrats

Callan Tansill

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