ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) — A failed Republican parliamentary nominee, who officials said was furious at losing last November’s election and making unsubstantiated claims that the election was “rigged” against him, was arrested Monday in connection with a series of shootings from inside the Car arrested targeting the homes of Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico’s largest city.
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina held a news conference Monday night after SWAT officers arrested Solomon Pena at his home.
Medina described Pena as the “mastermind” of an apparently politically motivated criminal conspiracy that led to four shootings in or near the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators between early December and early January.
Pena lost in November to incumbent Congressman Miguel P. Garcia, the longtime Democrat representing House District 14 in the South Valley. Garcia won by 48 percentage points, or around 3,600 votes.
Police said Pena, a refuser to vote, contacted county and state legislators after his loss claimed the contest was rigged against him, although there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in New Mexico in 2020 or 2022 gave. The shootings began shortly after these talks.
The New Mexico State Elections Board unanimously endorsed the results of the November elections.
“This type of radicalism is a threat to our nation and has made its way to our doorstep right here in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” Mayor Tim Keller said. “But I know we’re going to push back, and we’re not going to let that cross the threshold.”
Deputy Commander Kyle Hartsock said at least five people, including Pena, were involved in the shooting. Pena is accused of paying the others for at least two of the shootings before “Pena herself” allegedly “pushed the trigger” in one of the crimes, according to Hartsock.
Police said they identified Pena as their “prime suspect” using a combination of cellphone recordings, witness interviews and bullet casings collected from lawmakers’ homes. His arrest comes a week after Police Chief Medina originally announced they had identified a suspect in the shooting.
An attorney for Pena who could comment on the allegations was not listed in prison records Monday night.
The shooting is being investigated by local and federal officials. (Credit: KOAT/DEBBIE OMALLEY/CNN)
No one was injured in the shooting, which took place amid a surge in threats against members of Congress, school board members, election officials and other government officials across the country. In Albuquerque, law enforcement is struggling to cope with consecutive years of record-breaking homicides and sustained gun violence.
Hartsock said further arrests and charges were expected in the case but declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation. He said some people, including Pena, were in custody as of Monday night.
A criminal complaint with the exact charges against Pena should be published in the coming days.
The shootings began in early December when eight rounds were fired at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, police said. Days later, the home of former Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley was attacked.
When news of the shooting broke, State Assemblyman Javier Martinez examined his property and discovered gunfire damage. Police believe the shooting took place in early December.
Then, in the first week of January, shots rang out at the home of Senator Linda Lopez — a major sponsor of a 2021 bill that reversed the ban on most abortion procedures in New Mexico.
Lopez said in a statement that three of the bullets went through her 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom.
Police had been investigating two other shootings — one near the former campaign office of New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez and another in State Senator Antonio Maestas’ office. But Gilbert Gallegos, a police department spokesman, said Monday the shootings do not appear to be connected to the case.
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