Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

APD investigates possible connection between shootings at Democratic politicians’ homes, offices

Three homes and two offices were shot at in Albuquerque. All five are locations where prominent New Mexico Democrats work and live.

It started Dec. 4 when someone fired bullets into Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa’s family home. Now, Barboa is cautious around windows and doors, she said, and she doesn’t feel safe in the space where she raised her kids. 

“It’s home,” she said. “I’ve been here my whole entire life.”

Almost a week later, someone also shot at the office of newly-elected Attorney General Raúl Torrez’s campaign office. A day after that on Dec. 11, gunshots were fired at Debbie O’Malley’s house, weeks before her term on the Bernalillo County Commission ended. 

On Tuesday, Jan. 3, there was another shooting at the home of state Sen. Linda Lopez, and, on Thursday, Jan. 5, more bullets were fired at the law office of Sen. Antonio “Moe” Maestas. 

Suddenly, the trend was hard to ignore.

At first, Albuquerque police Chief Harold Medina said he didn’t establish a connection to the shooting in December. The Jan. 3 incident prompted the department to open an investigation into the pattern.

Law enforcement is processing evidence to determine if there is a connection. None of the elected officials were injured in any of the shootings.

Contact info for state lawmakers, including home phone numbers and work addresses, have been scrubbed from the Legislature’s website. 

Jeret Fleetwood, Legislative Council Services project coordinator, said staff did that “out of an abundance of caution.” State officials have taken down contact information temporarily in other instances, too, like after the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, he said.

Medina said at a news conference on Thursday that officials won’t speculate about whether the shootings are related until it’s confirmed by evidence. He didn’t elaborate on any details of the evidence police have right now.

A deputy commander is assigned to work solely on this case along with the FBI and New Mexico State Police, he said.

Barboa said after a third elected official’s house was shot at, it was time to start looking at the possibility of lawmakers being a target for violence and to warn others about the situation.

“After the third one, we have to open their eyes and say there might be a pattern here,” she said. “Let’s at least raise a flag.”

Barboa and Maestas said they feel targeted as elected officials. O’Malley, who served in city and county seats since 2005, pointed to the fact that all of the homes that were shot at belong to women. 

Women in politics are much more likely to be violently targeted than men, according to Forbes.

Barboa said some people get really mad about decisions politicians make or their opinions as leaders, but the place to voice those feelings is in public comment — not through violence. She speculated about whether the shootings have something to do with election denial or those who oppose abortion rights, both issues that people have been aggressively vocal on locally.

“I encourage public discourse on any of the issues that I take a stance on,” she said. “And I encourage us all to have the courage to face these things face-to-face and without violence.”

Dealing with the aftermath

The bullets fired at O’Malley’s property were not able to get through thick adobe walls, so they didn’t make it into her home, as they did in the other two houses. She said she’s thankful nobody was standing near doorways or walls where bullets were fired.

“I am disgusted that somebody would do something like this, spray into somebody’s house,” O’Malley said. “It could’ve hurt — worse than anything to me — a member of my family.”

Lopez said in a statement that three bullets passed through her 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom while she and her family slept. Maestas also has young children and said he’s keeping them away from the TV to avoid news about the shootings.

Maestas didn’t attend a public event yesterday after the incident. He said he didn’t want to be a distraction.

He said he was reading about the other shootings in the news when, 20 minutes later, one of his lawyers called to tell him that shots were fired at his law office.

“Every politician knows they are going to be scrutinized,” he said, “but violence is just categorically unacceptable in our society.”

He said other officials have reached out to check in on him. He’s grateful for the work law enforcement is doing on the case, he added, and is hopeful they’ll apprehend somebody.

“My heart goes out to my colleagues,” Maestas said. “And hopefully everybody keeps a watchful eye and stays safe.”

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