Former Republican candidate for the New Mexico House of Representatives Solomon Peña was arrested Monday by an Albuquerque SWAT team in connection with a series of shootings at the homes of local Democratically elected leaders, Albuquerque police said.
Peña, who lost his run for State House District 14 in 2022, is accused of paying with four men and conspiring to shoot at the homes of two lawmakers and two county commissioners, Albuquerque police said.
“He is believed to be the mastermind” behind the shootings, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said during a news conference.
CNN reached out to Peña’s campaign website for comment and was unable to identify his attorney.
Police say Peña is charged in connection with four shootings: a Dec. 4 incident at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa; a December 8 shooting at the home of Speaker Javier Martinez; a December 11 shooting at the home of then-Bernalillo Commissioner Debbie O’Malley; and a Jan. 3 shooting at the home of Sen. Linda Lopez, police said in a news release.
In the recent shooting, police found evidence that “Peña himself took part in that shooting and actually pulled the trigger on at least one of the firearms used,” said Albuquerque Police Commander Kyle Hartsock. However, according to the department, an AR pistol he tried to use malfunctioned. More than a dozen shots were fired from a separate pistol by another gunman, the police statement said.
“No one was injured in the shooting, which resulted in damage to four homes,” the Albuquerque Police Department said in a press release. “Detectives no longer believe the shootings are linked to reports of gunfire near an attorney general’s campaign office or a state senator’s law office.”
Detectives served search warrants Monday at Peña’s apartment and the home of two men allegedly paid by Peña, police said in the statement, adding Peña did not speak to detectives.
Officials arrested Peña on suspicion of “helping to orchestrate and participate in these four shootings, either at his request or personally conducted them himself,” Hartsock added.
Gun evidence, surveillance video, cellphone and electronic recordings, and multiple witnesses in and around the conspiracy aided the investigation and helped officials connect five people to the conspiracy, Hartsock said.
Peña lost his race to Democrat Miguel Garcia, 26.44% to 73.56%.
After the loss, Peña went to the senators and commissioners in their homes with documents alleging that fraud was involved in the election, said Gilbert Gallegos, communications director for the Albuquerque Police Department.
“What our investigation shows… after the November election, Solomon Peña reached out and hired someone, for a sum of money, to commit at least two of those shootings. The addresses of the shootings were provided over the phone,” Hartsock said Monday. “In one instance, the shooting took place within a few hours at the legislature’s home.”
The department is still investigating whether the people suspected in the shooting “even knew who those targets were or were just conducting shootings,” Hartsock added.
Last week, police announced they had a suspect in custody and had obtained a firearm linked to one of the shootings at the homes of elected officials. A car driven at one of the filming locations was registered to Peña, the department said.
“APD essentially found what we all feared and suspected — that these shootings were in fact politically motivated, and that was essentially confirmed by this investigation,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said during the news conference.
“I also know that basically it was about a right-wing extremist, a refuser to vote, who was arrested today. And someone who has done the worst thing you can do when you have a political disagreement, which is to turn it into violence. That should never be the case. Differences in the foundations of democracy will happen. Disagreements arise. We know we don’t always agree with our elected officials, but that should never lead to violence,” added Keller.
Former Bernalillo Commissioner Debbi O’Malley, whose home is among those shot, said she was pleased an arrest had been made.
“I am very relieved – and so is my family. I am very grateful for the police work,” O’Malley told CNN Monday night.
O’Malley said she and her husband were sleeping on December 11 when more than a dozen shots were fired at their Albuquerque home.
Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa said she discovered the shooting at her home after she returned from Christmas shopping.
“It was terrifying. My house had four shots through the front door and windows where just hours before my grandchild and I were playing in the living room,” Barboa said in a statement. “This attack continues to be incredibly difficult to process, especially knowing that other women and elected officials of color with children and grandchildren have been targeted.”
House Speaker Javier Martinez, whose home was also shot, told CNN in a statement he was grateful a suspect was in custody. “We’ve seen far too much political violence lately, and all of these events are stark reminders that stoking fear, raising tension and fomenting hatred can have devastating consequences,” he said.