Prosecutors: New Mexico candidate is a danger to the community region

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) – Prosecutors say a failed GOP candidate accused of orchestrating a series of drive-by shootings at the homes of Democratically elected officials in New Mexico’s largest city poses a danger to the community and should be imprisoned pending trial.

They filed a motion Wednesday asking that Solomon Peña be held without bail. He appeared videotaped for a first court appearance when a judge announced he would remain in custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for next month.

Defense attorney Roberta Yurcic said she will request that conditions be set so her client can be released while his case is heard in a state district court. But prosecutors argued in the motion that no conditions would keep the community safe.

“The defendant’s actions show the effort he is willing to make when he is dissatisfied with reality,” the motion states. “He arranged for multiple shootings at multiple homes and personally attended at least one of the shootings. There is no reason to believe that someone so unwilling to accept reality will believe the court-ordered terms of release.”

Peña faces multiple charges related to shootings that began in early December and continued through January. The charges include shooting at a house, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy and criminal possession of a firearm.

Authorities identified the 39-year-old criminal as the prime suspect using a combination of cellphone and vehicle records, bullet casings collected near officers’ homes and information from a confidential witness.

Peña had posted on social media after the November election that it was “rigged” and that he would not back down despite losing his bid for the statehouse in a district held by Democrats for years.

According to a criminal complaint, the political newcomer allegedly paid four men to shoot at the homes of Democratic officials, including a house where a 10-year-old girl slept.

The case of Peña, who posted photos of himself with Donald Trump campaign footage online, is one of dozens across the United States in which people have threatened, and in some cases attempted, violence against members of Congress, school boards and other campaign workers .

Peña, a self-proclaimed “MAGA king,” expressed his dissatisfaction with the election and the confirmation of the results in a text message sent to one of his alleged co-conspirators in November.

Other messages included the addresses of the officers involved.

A SWAT team arrested Peña on Monday.

Peña spent nine years behind bars after being arrested in April 2007 for stealing electronics and other goods from retail stores as part of what authorities called a burglary squad. He was released from prison in March 2016, and his voting rights were restored in April 2021 after serving five years of probation, correctional officials said.

Peña ran unsuccessfully in November against incumbent Congressman Miguel P. Garcia, the longtime Democrat representing House District 14 in the South Valley. Peña received 26% of the votes.

On November 15, he posted a picture of himself in a Make America Great Again hoodie and said, “Trump just announced 2024. I stand by him. I never conceded my HD 14 race. Now I’m researching my options.”

No one was injured in the car shooting, and elected leaders on both sides of the aisle have condemned such violence, saying it has no place in the political process.

Police said Peña had previously turned up uninvited to two elected officials with documents proving he had won his race. There was no evidence of widespread voter fraud or an irregularity in New Mexico in 2020 or 2022 in which there were enough votes to change an outcome.

The criminal complaint states that Peña hired a father and son with their own criminal records, as well as two brothers, who authorities have yet to identify. Albuquerque Police said they expect more arrests.

According to the complaint, a witness told investigators one of the men told the shooters to aim over the windows of the houses to avoid hitting anyone inside.

The witness said Peña wanted them to shoot deeper and that his insistence that the men be more aggressive made the other participants uneasy.

Peña is accused of taking part in the latest shooting – the one that targeted Senator Linda Lopez’s home. The witness said Peña’s gun jammed and did not fire properly, but one of the other men fired multiple rounds from a Glock pistol into the house where Lopez’s daughter was sleeping.

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