Albuquerque, NM – A former New Mexico House of Representatives Republican candidate has been arrested for allegedly orchestrating a series of recent shootings targeting the homes of four Democratic politicians.
Albuquerque Police Department (APD) Chief Harold Medina confirmed Solomon Pena was arrested by a SWAT team on Jan. 16.
“APD has arrested Solomon Pena for the recent shootings at local lawmakers’ homes,” Chief Medina tweeted. “Pena, an unsuccessful legislative candidate in the 2022 election, is accused of conspiring with, and paying four other men to shoot at the homes of 2 county commissioners and 2 state legislators.”
House District 14 incumbent Representative Miguel Garcia beat Pena in the 2022 election by more than 3,600 votes, ABC News reported.
Just 26 percent of voters threw their support behind Pena, according to NBC News.
“Garcia had sued Pena in August 2022, arguing that Pena was not eligible to serve in the legislature because he is a convicted felon and was not pardoned by the governor,” the APD said in a press release, according to ABC News. “A judge ruled in September that Pena could remain on the ballot because the law is unconstitutional.”
Pena served a nearly seven-year stint in prison on a 2008 burglary conviction, NBC News reported.
Chief Medina said Pena felt the election was “rigged” against him, so he hired a group of men to shoot up several Democratic lawmakers’ homes in retaliation, ABC News reported.
“He doesn’t want to accept the results of the election,” the police chief said. “So, he approached all of these commissioners and the senators at their home with paperwork claiming that…there was fraud involved in those elections.”
The APD said Pena is being charged in connection with the shootings at the homes of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, New Mexico House Speaker Javier Martinez, now-former Bernalillo Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, and New Mexico State Senator Linda Lopez, ABC News reported.
No one was injured in any of the attacks.
The first incident occurred on Dec. 4, 2022, when someone fired eight bullets into Barboa’s home, WJHG reported.
“I returned from Christmas shopping to my home being shot up; it was terrifying,” Barboa told NPR on Jan. 6. “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.”
Martinez’s home was hit on Dec. 8, 2022, ABC News reported.
More than a dozen rounds were fired into O’Malley’s residence on Dec. 11, 2022.
O’Malley said she and her husband were asleep at the time, WJHG reported.
“To say I am angry about this attack on my home — on my family – is the least of it,” she told the news outlet. “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.”
The APD said a gunman opened fire on Linda Lopez’s home on Jan. 3, ABC News reported.
Investigators said in a press release that Pena was the mastermind behind the attacks, and that he “paid the men cash and sent text messages with addresses where he wanted them to shoot at the homes.”
Pena allegedly accompanied the shooters to one of the targets, “but the AR handgun he was using malfunctioned,” according to police.
Investigators zeroed in on Pena after officers conducted a traffic stop on his vehicle in the early-morning hours of Jan. 3, NBC News reported.
The vehicle was being driven by Jose Trujillo, who had an outstanding felony warrant at the time.
Police arrested Trujillo and conducted an “inventory search” of the vehicle to ensure it could safely be impounded, according to NBC News.
Investigators allegedly discovered more than 800 fentanyl pills inside the center console during the search, as well as two handguns.
One of the handguns was allegedly tied back to the shooting at Lopez’s home, which had occurred just 40 minutes prior to Trujillo being pulled over, NBC News reported.
A shell casing recovered from Pena’s car allegedly matched those found outside Martinez’s home after his residence was targeted.
Investigators said they found yet another shell casing inside a stolen car that was being used by one of the gunmen Pena has been accused of hiring, NBC News reported.
That casing matched those found outside Barboa’s house, according to police.
Additional arrests are expected.
Investigators previously noted they believed two other shootings were linked to the attacks, but Pena had not been charged in connection with those incidents as of Monday, NBC News reported.
The other two shootings involved attacks on New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez’s former campaign headquarters on Dec. 10, 2022, and on New Mexico State Senator Moe Maestas’ law office on Jan. 5.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller described Pena as a “right-wing radical” and “election denier,” CNN reported.
“At the end of the day, this was about a right-wing radical, an election denier who was arrested today and someone who did the worst imaginable thing you can do when you have a political disagreement, which is turn that to violence,” the Democratic mayor said. “We know we don’t always agree with our elected officials, but that should never, ever lead to violence.”
Keller released a statement thanking investigators on Monday.
“Thank you to our @ABQPOLICE officers and partners in law enforcement who worked tirelessly to make this arrest,” Keller tweeted. “This radicalism is a threat to our city, our state, and our nation. We will continue to push back against hate in all forms and stop political violence.”