Police in the southwestern United States are investigating a series of shootings over the last month that appear to be aimed at the homes and workplaces of Democratic politicians in New Mexico.
The police department in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, issued a statement on Thursday after gunfire was reported that morning at the law offices of State Senator Antonio “Moe” Maestas.
Four separate shootings were identified in the police statement, with the department identifying a fifth incident in the hours afterwards. Law enforcement were still investigating whether the incidents are related.
“Our elected officials have chosen to serve,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said in the statement. “They should never be made to feel in danger in the comfort of their own homes, nor should anyone.”
The announcement came as the US marked the second anniversary of the deadly attack on the Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021 — an event that spurred growing concern about the rise of violent anti-government ideologies in the country.
In speech in September, US Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said the department had shifted its attention from foreign threats to include domestic ones, as well.
“In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we in the United States were most intensely focused on the foreign terrorists,” Mayorkas said.
“Now, we are very concerned about the domestic terrorist, or domestic violent extremist, who is radicalised to violence not by a foreign terrorist ideology, but by an ideology of hate, anti-government sentiment, false narrative, personal grievance or other narrative propagated online.”
The shootings being investigated in New Mexico began on December 4, when eight rounds were fired at the home of Democrat Adriann Barboa, a commissioner for Bernalillo County, where Albuquerque is located.
“I returned from Christmas shopping to my home being shot up,” Barboa said in a post on Facebook on Friday.
“It was terrifying. My house had four shots through the front door and windows, where just hours before my grandbaby and I were playing in the living room.”
A second incident occurred in the early morning hours of December 11 at the home of outgoing county commissioner Debbie O’Malley. She left office in December after serving the maximum two terms.
The shooting jolted both her and her husband awake, O’Malley later told the Albuquerque Journal. At first, they thought it sounded like banging on the door.
“When we got up, I heard four more ‘boom-boom-booms’,” O’Malley told the Journal. “I said ‘Those are gunshots.’”
Daylight revealed that the house had been struck more than a dozen times, police said on Thursday.
The third shooting identified by police took place at the Albuquerque home of Democrat Linda Lopez, a state senator since 1997.
Police said that, on January 3, eight shots were fired at her home. The state senator later told The Associated Press that three of the bullets penetrated the walls of her 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom.
“I’ve been representing my community for 27 years and I’ve had threats off and on,” Lopez told the Albuquerque Journal. “But this is the first time when something has been done [as] a very personal attack on me and my family.”
The fourth shooting the Albuquerque Police Department noted in its news release were the gunshots documented at State Senator Maestas’s downtown law office.
But the department announced late on Thursday that it was also looking into a shooting near the offices of Democrat Raul Torrez, who was sworn in as New Mexico’s 32nd attorney general on January 1.
“We are concerned, of course, that these could be connected and that these could be targeted, and that’s why it’s so important that we’re taking this very seriously,” Mayor Keller said during a news conference.
Keller said that the police department has “some leads”, but he warned against speculating about the motives behind the attacks.
“Again, we are worried and concerned that these are connected and possibly politically motivated or personally motivated. But we don’t know that for a fact,” he said.
No injuries have been reported in the shootings. But in a statement, Bernalillo County Commissioner Barboa called for greater action to address gun violence.
“Too many of the people I love, my neighbours, and our communities have been impacted by violence like this,” Barboa said.
“Processing this attack is heavy,” she added, “especially knowing that other women of colour elected officials have also been targeted.”