The investigation into a failed New Mexico political candidate and a series of shootings has widened, with officials now looking to determine whether donations to the suspect’s campaign were funneled through drug trafficking, police said.
Republican Solomon Pena is accused of conspiring with four men and paying them to execute them shootings at the homes of two Bernalillo County commissioners and two state legislators in the Albuquerque area, the Albuquerque Police Department said. No one was injured in the shooting, which involved all elected Democratic officials.
Pena, who has been labeled an “election denier”, was arrested on Monday. He is accused of paying four men in cash and sending them the addresses he wanted targeted, Albuquerque police said.
Pena lost his home race in November and anger over this may have motivated the attacks, police said. Pena has claimed his defeat was the result of voter fraud, but the allegations are unfounded.
He overwhelmingly lost to incumbent House Democrat Miguel P. Garcia, 5,679 to 2,033, or 74% to 26%.
Pena’s lawyer could not be reached immediately on Friday.
The Albuquerque Police Department said Thursday that detectives and other law enforcement agencies are trying to determine whether financial contributions to Pena’s campaign “were generated from drug trafficking and whether campaign statutes were violated.”
Pena is the only person charged in the series of shootings.
But a man who police said was allegedly involved, Jose Trujillo, donated more than $5,000 to Pena’s campaign, and that man’s mother also donated about $4,000 to the campaign, officials said. Their donations account for nearly 40% of the money Pena has raised during his campaign, police said.
Trujillo is listed as cashier in Pena’s campaign reports.
At least eight shots were fired at Senator Linda Lopez’s home Jan. 3, the same night Trujillo was arrested on a warrant, police said.
Trujillo was pulled over in a car registered on Pena, police said.
“The deputy identified two firearms, several ammo magazines, 893 fentanyl pills packaged in small bags and $3,036 in cash,” police said. “One of the guns was later linked to the shooting at Sen. Lopez’s home. The guns, drugs and cash were consistent with the narcotics trade.” Trujillo was charged on Jan. 3, 2023 on his outstanding arrest warrant as well as a new drug trafficking charge.”
An attorney listed in a federal complaint for Trujillo did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.
Pena is in custody awaiting a hearing on January 23. Prosecutors have labeled him a danger to the community and said he should not be released before trial.
The first shooting took place on December 4 at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. In the days that followed, a shootout broke out outside the home of the new Speaker of the House, Javier Martinez. On December 11, the home of then-Bernalillo Commissioner Debbie O’Malley was hit by more than a dozen bullets, police said.
In early January, Lopez’s home was attacked, and three bullets went through her 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom. Nobody was injured.