New Mexico: Failed election candidate paid me to shoot officials, gunman says

New Mexico: Failed election candidate paid me to shoot officials, gunman says
Solomon Pena's last Twitter message, posted in mid-NovemberTwitter

A man in the US state of New Mexico has pleaded guilty to helping a defeated Republican candidate carry out drive-by shootings at the home of Democrats.

The defendant, Demetrio Trujillo, says the candidate, Solomon Peña, hired him after failing to win a seat in the state legislature in November 2022.

Over the following weeks, the residences of several Democratic officials were attacked in Albuquerque.

Mr Peña has denied the charges against him and is due to stand trial in June.

The case comes amid fears over a rise in political violence in the US.

Trujillo, 42, was arrested last month in connection with the Albuquerque shootings in late 2022 and early 2023.

In a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, he admitted to five charges, including conspiracy, election interference and using a firearm.

In a statement, federal prosecutors said that in December 2022, Mr Peña paid Trujillo to shoot at the homes of three former election candidates to intimidate them.

In January Mr Peña and Trujillo carried out one of the planned shootings, the statement added. Trujillo is due to be sentenced later.

Mr Peña lost the election to the state legislature by nearly 50 percentage points, but alleges that the vote was “rigged”.

Police say he approached the four Democrats he later targeted to pressure them to overturn the results.

At the time, Mr Peña’s Twitter account suggested he may have been inspired by former president Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

His last message on Twitter, posted on 15 November 2022, read: “Trump just announced for 2024. I stand with him. I never conceded my [House District] race. Now researching my options.”

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By David Ryckman