The investigation into a failed New Mexico political candidate and a string of shootings has expanded, with officials now looking to determine if contributions to the suspect's campaign were funneled by drug trafficking, police said.
Republican Solomon Pena is accused of conspiring with and paying four men to carry out shootings at the Albuquerque-area homes of two Bernalillo County commissioners and two state legislators, Albuquerque police said. No one was hurt in the shootings, which all involved elected Democratic officials.
Pena, who has been called an "election denier," was arrested Monday. He is accused of paying four men cash and texting them the addresses he wanted targeted, Albuquerque police said.
Pena lost his House race in November, and anger over that may have motivated the attacks, police said. Pena has claimed that his defeat was the result of election fraud, but the allegations are unfounded.
He overwhelmingly lost to House incumbent Democrat Miguel P. Garcia, 5,679 to 2,033, or 74% to 26%.
Pena's lawyer was not immediately reached Friday.
Solomon Pena makes first court appearance in New MexicoJan. 19, 202305:33
Albuquerque police on Thursday said that detectives and other law enforcement agencies are trying to determine whether financial contributions to Pena's campaign were "generated from narcotics trafficking and whether campaign laws were violated.”
Pena is the only person who has been charged in the series of shootings.
But a man who police have 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 make up almost 40% of the money raised by Pena during his campaign, police said.
Trujillo is listed as a cashier in Pena's campaign reports.
At least eight shots were fired at state Sen. Linda Lopez’s home on Jan. 3, the same night Trujillo was arrested on a felony warrant, police said.
Trujillo was stopped in a car registered to Pena, police said.
"The deputy identified two firearms, several magazines of ammunitions, 893 Fentanyl pills packaged in small baggies, and $3,036 in cash,” police said. “One of the guns was later connected to the shooting at Sen. Lopez’s home. The deputy concluded that the guns, drugs and cash were consistent with dealing narcotics. Trujillo was booked on Jan. 3, 2023, for his outstanding warrant, as well as a new charge of trafficking in narcotics.”
A lawyer listed for Trujillo in a federal complaint did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.
Pena is in custody, awaiting a Jan. 23 hearing. Prosecutors have called him a danger to the community are have said he should not be released ahead of trial.
The first shooting happened Dec. 4 at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. In the following days, a shooting occurred outside the home of new state House Speaker Javier Martinez. On Dec. 11, the home of then-Bernalillo Commissioner Debbie O’Malley was struck by more than a dozen bullets, police said.
Lopez’s home was targetted in early January, and three bullets went through the bedroom of her 10-year-old daughter. No one was injured.