Former Republican New Mexico State House candidate Solomon Peña was arrested by an Albuquerque SWAT team Monday in connection with a string of recent shootings at the homes of local Democratic elected leaders, Albuquerque Police said.
Peña, who lost his 2022 run for State House District 14, is accused of paying and conspiring with four men to shoot at the homes of two state legislators and two county commissioners, Albuquerque Police said.
“It is believed he is the mastermind” behind the shootings, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said during a news conference.
CNN has reached out to Peña’s campaign website for comment and has been unable to identify his attorney.
Police say Peña will face charges related to four shootings: A December 4 incident at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa; a December 8 shooting at the home of State House Speaker Javier Martinez; a December 11 shooting at the home of then-Bernalillo Commissioner Debbie O’Malley; and a January 3 shooting at the home of State Sen. Linda Lopez, police said in a news release.
In the latest shooting, police found evidence that “Peña himself went on this shooting and actually pulled the trigger on at least one of the firearms that was used,” Albuquerque Police Commander Kyle Hartsock said. However, an AR handgun he tried to use malfunctioned, according to the department. More than a dozen rounds were fired by another shooter from a separate handgun, the police statement said.
“Nobody was injured in the shootings, which resulted in damage to four homes,” an Albuquerque Police news release says. “Detectives no longer believe the shootings are connected to reports of shots fired near a campaign office of the Attorney General, nor the law office of a state senator.”
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 with detectives.
Officers arrested Peña on suspicion of “helping orchestrate and participate in these four shootings, either at his request or he conducted them personally, himself,” Hartsock added.
Firearm evidence, surveillance video, cell phone and electronic records and multiple witnesses in and around the conspiracy aided the investigation and helped officials connect five people to this conspiracy, Hartsock said.
Peña lost his race to Democrat Miguel Garcia, 26.44% to 73.56%.
After losing, Peña approached the senators and commissioners at their homes with paperwork claiming there was fraud involved in the elections, Albuquerque Police Director of Communications Gilbert Gallegos said.
“What our investigation shows … after the election in November, Solomon Peña reached out and contracted someone for an amount of cash money to commit at least two of these shootings. The addresses of the shootings were communicated over phone,” Hartsock said Monday. “Within hours, in one case, the shooting took place at the lawmaker’s home.”
The department is still investigating whether the people suspected of carrying out the shootings were “even aware of who these targets were, or if they were just conducting shootings,” Hartsock added.
Last week, police announced they had a suspect in custody and had obtained a firearm connected to one of the shootings at homes of elected officials. A car being driven at one of the shooting scenes was registered to Peña, the department said.
“APD essentially discovered what we had all feared, and what we had suspected – that these shootings were indeed politically motivated, and that has basically been confirmed by this investigation,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said during the news conference.
“I also know that fundamentally, 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. That should never be the case. Differences of fundamentals in democracy are going to happen. Disagreements take place. We know we don’t always agree with our elected officials, but that should never ever lead to violence,” Keller added.
Former Bernalillo Commissioner Debbi O’Malley, whose home is among those that were shot at, said she is pleased an arrest has been made.
“I am very relieved – and so is my family. I’m very appreciative of the work the police did,” O’Malley told CNN on Monday evening.
O’Malley said she and her husband were sleeping on December 11, when more than a dozen shots were fired at her home in Albuquerque.
Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa said she discovered the gunshots at her home after returning from Christmas shopping.
“It was terrifying. 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,” Barboa said in a statement. “Processing this attack continues to be incredibly heavy, especially knowing that other women and people of color elected officials, with children and grandbabies, were targeted.”
House Speaker Javier Martinez, whose home was also shot at, told CNN in a statement he’s grateful a suspect is in custody. “We have seen far too much political violence lately and all of these events are powerful reminders that stirring up fear, heightening tensions, and stoking hatred can have devastating consequences,” he said.