Ex-GOP candidate tied to shootings at NM lawmakers' homes appears in court: What to know about the case




  • In Politics
  • 2023-01-19 14:45:01Z
  • By USA TODAY

A jailed, failed GOP candidate accused of orchestrating a series of drive-by shootings at the homes of lawmakers in New Mexico appeared in court Wednesday where a judge announced he will soon decide whether the man is held without bond.

Solomon Peña, 39, is charged with multiple counts stemming from shootings that started in early December and continued in January at the homes of four Democratic elected officials in the state's largest city. According to a criminal complaint, the political newcomer allegedly paid four men to shoot at the homes, including one where a 10-year-old girl slept.

Peña, who remained jailed Thursday at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque, faces nearly two dozen charges including shooting at a home, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and conspiracy.

Previously: Former candidate arrested in drive-by shooting case that targeted Democrats' homes in New Mexico

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Here's what happened so far in the case:

First court appearance

Peña appeared in court via video Wednesday afternoon shackled for an initial court appearance as a judge explained the defendant would remain in custody pending a detention hearing scheduled next month.

Prosecutors filed a motion asking Peña be held without bond, saying he is a danger to the community and should be detained pending trial.

Solomon Peña, 39, arrested in connection to the recent spate of shootings at the local lawmakers’ homes was booked into the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center at 12:26 a.m., the jail
Solomon Peña, 39, arrested in connection to the recent spate of shootings at the local lawmakers’ homes was booked into the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center at 12:26 a.m., the jail's records show.  

Defense attorney Roberta Yurcic said she would request conditions be set so her client can be released as his case proceeds through state district court. But prosecutors argued no conditions would ensure the community's safety.

"The defendant's actions show what lengths he is willing to go when he is dissatisfied with reality," the motion states. "He arranged multiple shootings of multiple homes, and he personally participated in at least one of the shootings. There is no reason to believe that someone so unwilling to accept reality will give any credence to court ordered conditions of release."

What to know about the shootings

A SWAT team arrested Peña at his home Monday in connection with the series of shootings at these lawmakers' homes on the following dates:

  • Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa (Dec. 4);

  • State Rep. Javier Martinez (Dec. 8);

  • Former Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley (Dec. 11);

  • State Sen. Linda Lopez (Jan. 3);

No one was wounded in the drive-by shootings that left homes and vehicles riddled with bullets, the Albuquerque Police Department reported. Police said Peña took part in the final shooting.

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Solomon Pena, center, a Republican candidate for New Mexico House District 14, is taken into custody by Albuquerque Police officers, Monday, Jan.
Solomon Pena, center, a Republican candidate for New Mexico House District 14, is taken into custody by Albuquerque Police officers, Monday, Jan.  

What to know about the investigation

According to a criminal complaint, two days after the shooting at Lopez's home, a police detective obtained a Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office report detailing a traffic stop initiated the night of the shooting near the lawmaker's home.

Shell casings found at the home matched a handgun that was confiscated in the traffic stop just 40 minutes after the shooting. The driver, Jose Trujillo, had an unrelated felony arrest warrant, the police said.

Inside the vehicle, which was registered to Peña, a deputy found items including more than 800 pills, a Glock 17 and an assault rifle, and the items were collected as evidence.

A witness, who police say is expected to cooperate in the case, told police Peña wanted people he hired for the shootings "to aim lower and shoot around 8 p.m. because occupants would more likely not be laying down" in the homes. Peña was present for the shooting at Lopez's residence, the witness claimed.

A suspected motive

Police Chief Harold Medina described Peña as the "mastermind" of what appears to be a politically motivated criminal conspiracy leading to shootings at the lawmakers homes.

Peña ran unsuccessfully in November against incumbent state Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, the longtime Democrat representing House District 14. Peña got 26% of the vote.

'Aim lower and shoot': Court papers reveal details on former Republican candidate linked to shootings at New Mexico lawmakers' homes

After the November election, Peña had posted on social media it was "rigged" and he would not concede despite losing his bid for the statehouse in a district that has been held by Democrats for years.

On Nov. 15, he posted an image of himself in a "Make America Great Again" hoodie, saying "Trump just announced for 2024. I stand with him. I never conceded my HD 14 race. Now researching my options."

Contributing: Associated Press.

Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Solomon Pena: What to know about Albuquerque, New Mexico, shootings

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