New information has been released in the case of a former New Mexico state legislative candidate who was jailed Tuesday in connection with a series of shootings at homes of Democratic elected officials.
A criminal complaint filed with USA TODAY reveals frightening details about the shootings linked to the Republican nominee. Bullets fired into one of the lawmaker’s homes sent boulders and dust flying into the 10-year-old daughter’s face as she slept in bed, the indictment said.
The complaint also shows that suspect Solomon Peña was “upset that he had not won election to public office”, adding that he encouraged accomplices to shoot at the houses during the night hours and “intended (seriously) to injury) or cause death”.
Peña, arrested Monday in connection with the recent spate of drive-by shootings at four local lawmakers’ homes, was booked Tuesday at 12:26 a.m. local time at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center, jail records show.
Peña, who lost his bid for a state House seat in November, is accused of conspiring with and paying four other men to shoot at the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators.
At a news conference Monday night, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said identified Peña as the “mastermind suspect” in the shootings.
No one was injured in the shootings, police said.
shooting Florida:8 injured, 1 seriously, in shooting at Martin Luther King Jr. event in Florida
Gunshots flew through a 10-year-old girl’s bedroom, according to new court documents
Court documents show that Peña, 38, is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, shooting four times into an occupied residence, four shootings at or from a moving vehicle, one count of attempted aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, four counts of conspiracy and criminal solicitation.
The most recent attack occurred at Senator Linda Lopez’s home on Jan. 3. According to the complaint, the lawmaker told police she heard loud bangs at her home the night of the shooting, but dismissed them as fireworks. At the same time, her 10-year-old daughter woke up and told her mother that she thought a spider had crawled across her face in bed.
“Linda went to sleep with her daughter in bed. While she was in bed, Linda’s daughter asked how it felt like there was sand in the bed,” the complaint reads.
The next morning, Lopez noticed that there were holes in her house from gunfire and called the police, the complaint continues. A preliminary investigation at the home revealed that “rock and dust were blown onto the face of Linda’s daughter in bed, as a result of firearm projectiles entering her bedroom overhead.”
Officers also found 12 hits to her home, believed to be from gunfire, and a projectile in a vehicle parked in the driveway.
Two days after the shooting, a police detective obtained a report from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office detailing a traffic stop that had been initiated the night of the shooting near the legislature’s home.
Shell casings found in Lopez’s home matched a handgun seized after the traffic stop just 40 minutes after the shooting. The driver, Jose Trujillo, had an unrelated warrant for a felony arrest, police said.
In the vehicle, which was registered to Peña, a deputy found items including more than 800 pills, a Glock 17 Generation 4 and an assault rifle, and collected the items as evidence.
A witness, who police wrote is expected to cooperate with the case, told police that Peña wanted people he hired for the shootings to “aim lower and shoot around 8 p.m. because the residents probably wouldn’t go lie in the houses. Peña was present at the shooting at Lopez’s residence, the witness claimed.
A lawyer for Peña who was able to comment on the allegations was not listed in the prison records.
Peña will appear in court for a hearing at 1:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday
Victim ‘grateful that suspect is in custody’
Some of the victims thanked the police for the arrest.
“I deeply appreciate our (police) for their hard work during this investigation of these shootings targeting elected officials,” Rep. tweeted. Javier Martinez, one of the four victims, Tuesday. “I am grateful that a suspect is in custody and I trust that our justice system will hold him accountable.”
Homes of elected officials shot at in New Mexico:Suspect in custody in connection with New Mexico Democrat home and office shootings
Police: Peña was frustrated about losing an election
At a press conference Monday night, hours after SWAT officers arrested Peña at his home, the police chief said Peña was angry about losing the election last November and made baseless claims that the election had been “rigged” against him.
Photos taken at the scene show officers escorting Peña, wearing khaki pants, a blue shirt and blue tennis shoes, handcuffed from the house.
“There is likely reason to believe that soon after this failed campaign he conspired with Jose Demetrio and two brothers to commit these four shootings of elected local and state government officials,” the indictment said.
Police said they identified Peña as their “key” suspect using a combination of cell phone records, witness interviews and bullet casings collected from lawmakers’ homes. His arrest comes a week after Medina, the police chief, initially announced they had identified a suspect in the shooting.
The ‘mastermind’ of a criminal plot
Medina described Peña as the “mastermind” of what appears to be a politically motivated criminal conspiracy that led to four shootings at or near the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators between early December and early January.
Peña was defeated in November by incumbent state Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, the longtime Democrat who represented House District 14 in the South Valley.
Police said Peña, an election denier, approached county and state lawmakers after his loss, claiming the game was rigged against him despite there being no evidence of widespread voter fraud in New Mexico in 2020 or 2022. The shootings began shortly after those conversations.
Police said in a statement that Peña paid four men in cash and “sent texts with addresses where he wanted them to shoot at the houses.”
The New Mexico State Canvassing Board unanimously approved the results of the November election.
No one was injured in the shootings, which came amid an increase in threats to members of Congress, school administrators, election officials and other government employees across the country. In Albuquerque, police are grappling with years of record homicides and ongoing gun violence.
Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock said at least four people, including Peña, were involved in the shootings. Peña is accused of paying the others to carry out at least two of the shootings, according to Hartsock, before “Peña himself” allegedly “pull the trigger” during one of the crimes.
Hartsock said more arrests and charges were expected in the case, but declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation. He said some individuals, including Peña, were in custody on Monday evening.
Four shootings in a month
The first shooting occurred on Dec. 4, when someone fired about eight shots at the home of Adriann Barboa, a Bernalillo County commissioner, police said. According to the report, the shooting occurred just after 3:30 p.m. and a pickup truck was seen nearby by neighbors.
In addition to Barboa’s home being hit, a parked vehicle was also hit by gunfire.
On December 8, more than a dozen shots were fired at Martinez’s home. His wife, the complaint alleges, was home at the time of the attack and heard the gunfire. Local residents also told police they saw a pickup truck pull away.
Three days later, on December 11, a shooting occurred at the home of another Bernalillo County commissioner, Debbie O’Malley.
According to the complaint, at least 12 shots were fired at the house. In addition, O’Malley said Peña arrived at her home a day or two before the incident.
“Debbie recalled being upset that he had not won election to public office,” the complaint continues.
Video surveillance from her home showed Peña arriving at her home in a black 2022 Audi.
Then, on January 3, police said that Peña accompanied the men to Lopez’s house and tried to shoot, but that the automatic rifle he was using was faulty. Another man shot more than a dozen bullets with a handgun, police said, including in the bedroom of Lopez’s daughter.
Contributions: The Bharat Express News
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.