Court records outline the case against Solomon Pena

Ballistics, cell phone data and an informant: Court records lay out the case against Solomon Pena

Solomon Pena and Jose Trujillo, one of the men he reportedly paid to do the drive-by shootings, are seen here in a car. (Courtesy of the Albuquerque Police Department)

Copyright © 2023 Albuquerque Journal

As Albuquerque Police Department detectives began their investigation into drive-by shootings at the homes of four Democratic lawmakers in December and early January, it wasn’t long before they heard the name of failed Republican candidate Solomon Pena.

A Bernalillo County commissioner told investigators about an upsetting encounter she’d had with the 39-year-old when he came to her home to insist the election was fraudulent. Officials said they learned he had visited two of the other victims’ homes as well.

Then, on the night of Jan. 3, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a man on gun and drug charges who was driving Pena’s car. He had been stopped less than five miles from a shooting that had occurred about 40 minutes earlier at the home of state Sen. Linda Lopez.

Police Chief Harold Medina announced last week a suspect was in custody on unrelated charges and detectives were continuing to investigate.

Over the past two weeks those detectives have used ballistic evidence, text messages, searches on Apple maps and a statement from a “confidential witness” to build the case against Pena.

Monday evening they announced that they believe he paid four men to carry out the shootings and that he participated in one of them. No one was injured in any of the incidents, but the politicians’ homes were riddled with bullets and, in Lopez’s case, rounds pierced the bedroom where her 10-year-old daughter slept.

Pena was arrested after a brief SWAT standoff at his condominium near the ABQ BioPark Zoo Monday afternoon. A second SWAT activation took place later that night in the Valley Area Command as investigators executed a search warrant. An APD spokesman said “evidence was gathered, but nobody was arrested.”

Pena is charged with four counts each of shooting at a dwelling, shooting at or from a motor vehicle and conspiracy to commit a shooting at a dwelling; and one count each of possession of a firearm by a felon, attempt to commit aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and criminal solicitation to commit a shooting at a dwelling.

Neither a public defender nor the attorney who has represented him in a previous case as a candidate responded to requests for comment.

Nobody else has been charged in connection with the case.

Ballistics, footage

When Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa’s home was struck by gunfire on the afternoon of Dec. 4, neighbors reported that a truck was possibly involved, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court.

That same day, a woman reported her SUV had been stolen and then found it less than half a mile from Barboa’s house. Bullet casings found inside the SUV matched those found outside Barboa’s house, according to the complaint.

A similar scenario played out after state Rep. Javier Martínez’s home was shot up on Dec. 8, except it was almost a month until a casing was found and compared to casings found in a stolen truck that had been left in the San Jose neighborhood. Martínez was elected as House Speaker on Tuesday.

And on Dec. 11, after County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley’s home was struck by about 12 rounds, she told investigators about a visit she’d had from Pena. She told the Journal on Monday that Pena had wanted to talk about what he believed was election fraud and was “kind of aggressive.”

Security camera footage of that visit showed Pena arriving at O’Malley’s house in a black 2022 Audi, which investigators say matched the description of the car that witnesses later said was used in the shooting at her home.

Then, a little after midnight on Jan. 3, the ShotSpotter gun shot detection system registered gunfire near Lopez’s home. An officer arrived at the scene and collected casings but didn’t see the damage since it was dark.

Lopez said she had heard loud bangs but she’d dismissed them as fireworks, according to the complaint.

Lopez’s daughter told her mother that she thought a spider had crawled on her face while she slept and that it felt like sand was in her bed. When the sun rose, Lopez realized that the sand was actually sheetrock dust, dislodged by bullets passing through the bedroom.

Investigators say that Solomon Pena sent this photo of Jose Trujillo, one of the men he reportedly paid to do the drive by shootings, to another of his alleged accomplices. (Courtesy of the Albuquerque Police Department)
Jose Trujillo, 21 (Courtesy of the Metropolitan Detention Center)

Linking defendants

About 40 minutes after the gunfire, and less than five miles away, a BCSO deputy arrested 21-year-old Jose Trujillo on a warrant after stopping him for having an expired registration. The car he was driving was registered to Pena.

Trujillo had more than 800 pills, believed to be fentanyl, a large amount of cash, a Glock pistol with a drum magazine and an AR pistol with him at the time, according to the complaint. He is now facing federal drug trafficking and firearm charges.

Last week, detectives executed a search warrant on the phone of 41-year-old Demetrio Trujillo – Jose Trujillo’s father.

That’s when, according to the complaint, APD’s acting Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock found that Pena had sent the home addresses for the four lawmakers to Demetrio Trujillo, who searched for it in Apple maps and in some cases passed the information on to Jose Trujillo.

Demetrio Trujillo, 41 (Courtesy of the Metropolitan Detention Center)

And Pena had texted Demetrio Trujillo a photo of a book with a highlighted passage that said “yet we argue, it was only the additional incentive of a threat of civil war that empowered a president to complete a reformest project” along with a text that said “they just certified it. They sold us out to the highest bidder” and “they were literally laughing at us while they were doing it.”

He also sent a photo of Jose Trujillo eating a hamburger surrounded by guns and a photo of himself and Jose Trujillo in a car.

Demetrio Trujillo was arrested last week on charges of receiving or transferring a stolen motor vehicle, possession of a controlled substance and tampering with evidence.

Detectives interviewed a witness and were told that Pena paid Demetrio Trujillo for a “job” shooting at multiple residences, according to the complaint. The witness “is facing criminal charges and did ask for consideration on those charges to help the investigation, but no promises or deals are in place as of this writing,” the detective wrote in the complaint.

For the first shooting, the witness said, Demetrio Trujillo and two adult brothers were paid $500 to split between the three of them. The witness, who is referred to as CW1, said he was with the group during the shooting at Barboa’s house, Martínez’s house and Lopez’s house.

“CW1 stated that Solomon was unhappy that the past impacts were so high up on the walls (of the dwellings),” the detective wrote in the complaint. “CW1 stated that Solomon further expressed discontent that the shootings were late at night. CW1 stated that Solomon wanted the shootings to be more aggressive. CW1 stated that Solomon wanted them to aim lower and shoot around 8 p.m. because occupants would more likely not be laying down.”

The witness told detectives that Pena, Demetrio Trujillo and Jose Trujillo went to shoot up Lopez’s home in a newly stolen red truck and Pena was armed with an AR, according to the complaint. He said that Pena attempted to fire the AR, but it jammed and did not fire correctly, so one of the others fired a Glock instead.

Journal staff writer Matthew Reisen contributed to this report.

Home » ABQnews Seeker » Ballistics, cell phone data and an informant: Court records lay out the case against Solomon Pena

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