Failed GOP candidate accused in shootings at Democratic officials’ homes pleads not guilty
ALBUQUERQUE, NM — The failed GOP candidate, who is accused of coordinating the shootings at the homes of Democratic officials in Albuquerque, New Mexico, pleaded not guilty on Friday.
The video in the media player is from an earlier report.
Solomon Peña entered the plea at a prosecution hearing by his attorney, Roberta Yurcic. Both appeared via conference call.
Peña was indicted by a grand jury on 14 counts of shooting and gun possession, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement Monday.
He is currently in prison awaiting trial after being accused of hiring four men and conspiring with them to serve as a GOP candidate in the houses of two lawmakers following his defeat in the 2022 House of Representatives election and to shoot two district commissioners.
Peña was charged with three counts of conspiracy to shoot at an apartment or occupied building, two counts of conspiracy to shoot at an apartment or occupied building, and, among other things, two counts of transporting or possessing a firearm or of a destruction device by certain people, the prosecutor announced.
CNN has reached out to Peña’s attorney for comment.
After Peña lost the November elections to the Democratic nominee, but before the shootings, Peña turned up uninvited to a legislature and some county commissioners and claimed that, according to police, fraud was committed in the election.
MORE: Ex-GOP candidate arrested in string of drive-by shootings at lawmakers’ homes in New Mexico
According to the Albuquerque Police Department, the Democratic officers whose homes were shot included Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, newly installed Speaker of the House Javier Martinez and Senator Linda Lopez.
No one was injured in any of the shootings, which saw at least one bullet go through a child’s bedroom while she was indoors, police said.
A judge ruled last week that Peña must remain in jail while he awaits trial, saying Peña poses a threat to victims of the shootings and their family members. Peña also has a history of convictions for crimes related to property crime and the use of stolen vehicles, mirroring tactics police say were used in the December and early January shootings, the judge pointed out.
Peña provided the weapons used in the shootings and suggested using stolen cars to avoid being identified, and was present at the fourth and final shooting, an investigator said at last week’s detention hearing.
Albuquerque Police Detective Conrad Griego, citing a confidential witness, claimed Peña complained that at least one of the shootings happened too late at night and bullets were fired too high into the house, reducing the likelihood of hitting the target hold true.
“He provides the firearms. He’s helping other people come up with a plan,” prosecutor Natalie Lyon said, including using stolen vehicles.
Yurcic argued that Peña was never found in possession of a firearm and attempted to cast doubt on the confidential witness’ credibility.
What we know about the shootings
False and unfounded allegations of voter fraud have exploded across the country in recent years, fueling anger and threats of violence against elected officials – including in local politics.
Peña lost his race on November 8, 2022 to Democratic state representative Miguel Garcia by a score of 26% to 74%. A week later, he tweeted that he “never conceded” the race and was researching his options.
Albuquerque police said there were multiple shootings at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa on December 4, the home of new House Speaker Javier Martinez on December 8, and the home of former Bernalillo on December 11 County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley Shot On January 3, Senator Linda Lopez’s home was shot.
Peña’s affidavit in the warrant identifies two of the alleged co-conspirators as Demetrio Trujillo and José Trujillo. According to a relative, Demetrio is José’s father.
“There is probably reason to believe that shortly after this unsuccessful campaign, he (Peña) conspired with Demetrio, José and two brothers to commit these four shootings at the homes of elected local and state government officials,” police wrote Albuquerque in the affidavit. “Solomon provided firearms and cash payments and personally participated in at least one shooting.”
Albuquerque Police said they are investigating whether Peña’s campaign was funded in part by cash from the sale of narcotics laundered for campaign funds.
Police say José Trujillo, who donated $5,155 to Peña’s failed campaign and listed his occupation as a “teller,” was arrested on January 3 – the night of the last of four shootings – on an outstanding warrant.
A Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy found him with more than $3,000 in cash, nearly 900 narcotic pills worth about $15,000 and two guns, one of which was ballistically matched to that day’s shooting, police said with. He was stopped driving Peña’s car, said a law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as the investigation is ongoing.
Attempts to reach lawyers for the Trujillos were unsuccessful.
Peña previously served nearly seven years in prison after being convicted in 2008 of stealing a large quantity of merchandise in a “smash-and-grab scheme,” CNN affiliate KOAT reported.
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https://6abc.com/solomon-pea-albuquerque-gop-shooting/12766849/ Failed GOP candidate accused in shootings at Democratic officials’ homes pleads not guilty