Police detained an “election denier” failed New Mexico state House candidate Monday for shooting Democratic leaders’ homes.
Police say Republican Solomon Pena conspired with and paid four men to commit four non-injury shootings at the Albuquerque residences of two Bernalillo County commissioners and two state senators.
Police believed Pena was angry with his November loss. Early Monday evening, police spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said Pena claimed electoral fraud. Garcia defeated Pena in the state House race by 5,679 to 2,033, or 74% to 26%.
Gallegos said he unsuccessfully appealed to three county commissioners and a state legislator, some of whose homes were shot at.
“He felt his election was rigged,” Gallegos stated. “As the mayor remarked, he was an election denier—he doesn’t want to acknowledge his election.” He stated one local and state leader meeting was heated.
“One led to quite an argument, I believe,” Gallegos remarked. “Shootings followed.”
Pena was a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, who falsely claimed voter fraud in his 2020 election loss. Last year, he wore a red “Make America Great Again” sweater with the previous president’s signature.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller called the attacks political radicalism. He tweeted Monday that radicalism threatens the city, state, and nation. “We shall fight hate and political violence.”
Albuquerque police said Pena paid four guys cash and texted them addresses where he wanted gunshots.
A traffic check early Jan. 3 of Pena’s Nissan Maxima, driven by Jose Trujillo, who was arrested on a felony warrant, was crucial to the investigation, police said Monday. After the arrest, officers conducted a “inventory search” of the vehicle to properly seize it and found more than 800 fentanyl tablets in the center console.
The Nissan’s two handguns were more important, one of which looked to have fired bullets outside state Sen. Linda Lopez’s home 40 minutes before the traffic stop and 4 miles away, according to the newest police statement.
The statement says one of the pistols matches one Pena took to one of the four shootings with plans to join in. Police said he recruited a man to shoot after the gun malfunctioned. “Another shooter fired more than a dozen shots from a separate weapon,” police said Monday night.
A round casing from the Maxima matched one from a Dec. 8 gunshot outside new state House Speaker Javier Martinez’s home, authorities said.
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Police located another casing in a stolen vehicle used by one of Pena’s alleged shooters. Police said that case matched a Dec. 4 complaint of rounds fired outside the Southeast Albuquerque home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa.
On Dec. 11, perhaps least a dozen shots were fired at then-Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley’s residence, completing Pena’s alleged crimes.
At the news conference, police stated the suspect was not responsible for two earlier shootings: Dec. 10 gunfire at Raúl Torrez’s old campaign office, who was elected New Mexico’s attorney general, and Jan. 5 gunfire outside newly appointed state Sen. Moe Maestas’ downtown law offices.
Police arrested another suspect and seized a handgun possibly used in one of the shootings on Jan. 9. On Monday, authorities charged four persons in addition to Pena and announced more arrests. Police refused to clarify the Jan. 9 suspect’s situation.
On Monday, Police Chief Harold Medina called Pena the shooter.
“He is regarded to be the mastermind behind this,” he added during Monday’s news conference.
Police arrested Pena Monday at his Albuquerque apartment by SWAT
Pena’s legal representation was unknown. A campaign site question went unanswered. Pena’s employer didn’t immediately comment. The Albuquerque Journal says Pena lost the South Valley’s New Mexico House District 14 race.
The newspaper exposed Pena’s criminal background during his campaign last year. It said he spent nearly seven years in prison for burglary.
Police noted Monday night that election winner Garcia unsuccessfully filed last year to have Pena declared ineligible for the Legislature due to his felony conviction.
A campaign email describes Pena as a California native who graduated from high school in New Mexico, became a Navy hospital corpsman in Okinawa, Japan, owns a business, and obtained a political science degree from UNM in 2021.
Pena’s campaign website promises state safety. “I will work to give opportunity for the next generation, keep the local economy open, and stop those who wish New Mexicans harm—in whatever way,” he declared.