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Democratic officials' homes, offices shot up in New Mexico

New Mexico Shooting
Adolphe Pierre-Louis/The Albuquerque Journal via AP
Sen. Linda Lopez , D-Albuquerque, shows bullet holes in her garage door after her Westside home was shot at last month on Thursday Jan. 5 , 2023 in Albuquerque, N.M. Police in New Mexico say the homes or offices of four elected Democratic officials in the Albuquerque area have been hit by gunfire over the past month. Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina says local and federal investigators are trying to determine if the attacks are connected.

The homes or offices of five elected Democratic officials in New Mexico, including the new attorney general, have been buffeted by gunfire over the past month, and authorities are working to determine if the attacks are connected.

Nobody was injured in the shootings, which are being investigated by local and federal authorities, said Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina. He called the investigation a top priority.

The attacks come amid a sharp rise in threats to members of Congress and two years after supporters of then-President Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol and sent lawmakers running for their lives. Local school board members and election workers across the country have also endured harassment, intimidation and threats of violence.

In New Mexico, the assaults began on Dec. 4, when someone shot eight rounds at the Albuquerque home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, police said. Seven days later, someone fired more than a dozen times at the Albuquerque house of then-Bernalillo Commissioner Debbie O’Malley.

On Dec. 10, ShotSpotter technology detected several gunshots in the area of New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez's former campaign office, police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said. The attorney general had already moved out of the office following his November election.

Just this week, multiple shots were fired at the home of state Sen. Linda Lopez and the office of state Sen. Moe Maestas.

“It is traumatizing to have several bullets shot directly through my front door when my family and I were getting ready to celebrate Christmas,” Barboa, who has been a county commissioner since January 2021, told Albuquerque TV station KRQE. “No one deserves threatening and dangerous attacks like this.”

O’Malley, who left her position as commissioner after serving a maximum of two terms, said in an email that she and her husband were asleep before the gunfire struck the adobe wall surrounding their home.

“To say I am angry about this attack on my home— on my family, is the least of it,” O’Malley said in an email. “I remember thinking how grateful I was that my grandchildren were not spending the night, and that those bullets did not go through my house.”

Lopez, who has been a state senator since 1997, said three of the bullets shot at her home passed through her 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom.

“I am asking the public to provide any information they may have that will assist the police in bringing about the arrest of the perpetrators,” Lopez said in a statement.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller called the shootings disturbing. He said they are serious crimes regardless of whether anyone was hurt.

Republican leaders in the New Mexico Senate said in a statement that they are “incredibly grateful" their colleagues were unharmed and they called for the arrest and prosecution of those responsible.

Federal officials have warned about the potential for violence and attacks on government officials and buildings, and the Department of Homeland Security has said domestic extremism remains a top terrorism threat in the U.S.

In October, an assailant looking for then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi broke into her San Francisco home and used a hammer to attack her husband, Paul, who suffered blunt-force injuries and was hospitalized. Rioters who swarmed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and halted the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory roamed the halls and shouted menacingly, demanding “Where’s Nancy?”

Members of a paramilitary group were convicted of plotting to kidnap Michigan’s governor. And in August, a gunman opened fire on an FBI office in Ohio after posting online that federal agents should be killed “on sight” after the FBI searched Trump's Mar-a-Lago home.

Across the U.S., election workers have been harassed and hounded, sending some into hiding. There have also been threats to judges, school board officials and armed protests at state capitols around the nation.

In June, a man who was arrested outside Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home in Maryland said he was there to kill the justice after a leaked court opinion suggested the court was likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion.

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, went into hiding for several weeks in December 2020 and January 2021 in response to online threats. Last year, she notified the FBI of new threats to her safety via an email and telephone calls to her offices.

In 2020, Democratic New Mexico state Sen. Jacob Candelaria fled home after receiving anonymous threatening telephone messages following his criticism of a protest outside the state Capitol against COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

The Democratic Party has consolidated control over every statewide elected office, the state Supreme Court and congressional delegation, and holds commanding majorities in the state House and Senate. Republicans still dominate local politics across vast rural swaths of the state and some urban areas.

Lopez, whose home was hit by bullets, was a lead sponsor of 2021 legislation that reversed New Mexico’s ban on most abortion procedures after Roe v. Wade was overturned last year.

Maestas, an attorney and former public prosecutor, has been active on a wide range of legislation: He co-sponsored an unsuccessful initiative last year that would set new criminal penalties for those who threaten state and local judges and for those who publicly share officials' personal information, such as home addresses.

The bill came in response to 15 documented threats against judges and courthouses in 2021 alone, as well as a barrage of threats that shut down the Taos County courthouse in 2018 amid judicial proceedings involving the mysterious death of a child at a remote family compound. A judge retired following those threats.