A failed Republican candidate in the legislative elections who authorities say was angry that he lost last November’s election and made baseless claims that the election was “rigged” against him, was arrested Monday in connection with a series of drive-by shootings targeting the homes of Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico’s largest city.
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina held a press conference Monday night hours after Solomon Pena was arrested at his home.
Medina described Pena as the “mastermind” of what appears to be a politically motivated criminal conspiracy that led to four shootings at or near the homes of two county commissioners and two state lawmakers between early December and early January. .
Pena was defeated in November by incumbent State Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, the longtime Democrat representing House District 14 in the South Valley.
Police say Pena, an election denier, approached county and state lawmakers after his loss, saying the contest was rigged against him despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud in New Mexico in 2020 or 2022. The shootings began shortly after these conversations.
The New Mexico State Canvassing Council unanimously certified the November election results.
“This type of radicalism is a threat to our nation and has made its way to our doorstep here in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” Mayor Tim Keller said. “But I know we’re going to push back, and we won’t allow this to 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 to carry out at least two of the shootings, according to Hartsock, before “Pena himself” “pulled the trigger” during one of the crimes.
Police said they identified Pena as their “key” suspect using a combination of cellphone records, witness interviews and casings collected from lawmakers’ homes. His arrest comes a week after Medina, the police chief, initially announced that he had identified a suspect in the shooting.
A lawyer for Pena who could comment on the allegations was not listed in prison records Monday night.
No one was injured in the shooting, which came amid an increase in threats against members of Congress, school board members, election officials and other government workers across the country. In Albuquerque, law enforcement is struggling to cope with consecutive years of record-breaking homicides and persistent gun violence.
Hartsock said additional arrests and charges are expected in the case, but declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation. He said some people, including Pena, were in custody Monday night.
A criminal complaint outlining the exact charges against Pena is expected to be released in the coming days.
The shooting began in early December when eight shots 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 targeted.
As news reports began to surface about the shooting, State Representative 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 were fired at the home of State Senator Linda Lopez – one of the main sponsors of a 2021 bill that overturned the ban. of New Mexico on most abortion procedures.
Lopez said in a statement that three of the bullets went through her 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom.
Police had investigated two other shootings — one near the former campaign office of New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez and another at the office of Sen. Antonio Maestas. But Gilbert Gallegos, a police department spokesman, said Monday the shootings did not appear to be related to the case.
The Independent Gt