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Ex-State House Candidate Accused in Shootings

National

Albuquerque police speak at news conference | Image by Albuquerque Police

An arrest has been made in connection with a series of shootings at the homes of Democratic politicians in New Mexico.

Albuquerque police claim Solomon Peña, 39, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the New Mexico state legislature, conspired with and paid four men to execute drive-by shootings in stolen vehicles at the homes of two Bernalillo County commissioners and two state legislators between early December and early January, per NBC 5.

In a statement Monday night, the New Mexico Republican Party disavowed Peña, saying, “If Peña is found guilty, he must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

Peña was arrested Monday evening after SWAT officers took him into custody and served search warrants for his home, according to police.

Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said Peña was the “mastermind” of an apparent conspiracy to carry out the shootings.

“He had complaints about his election he felt being rigged,” said police spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos. “As the mayor said, he was an election denier — he doesn’t want to accept the results of his election.”

Peña lost his state House race against incumbent Democrat Miguel P. Garcia, 74% to 26%.

Gallegos said the suspect took his case to three county commissioners and a state senator — showing up uninvited to their homes with documents he claimed proved he won his race — but those attempts were unsuccessful.

Some of those politicians’ homes later became targets of the shootings.

“One [meeting] actually led to quite an argument,” Gallegos said. “It was shortly after that the shootings occurred.”

Deputy Police Commander Kyle Hartsock said Peña paid four men in cash to carry out at least two of the shootings, while Peña himself “pulled the trigger” during one of them.

Detectives identified Peña as their key suspect using cell phone records, vehicle records, witness interviews, and bullet casings collected at the crime scenes.

Police said a key to the investigation was a January 3 traffic stop of Peña’s Nissan Maxima, which was being driven by a man named Jose Trujillo, who was then arrested based on an outstanding felony warrant.

The arrest triggered an “inventory search” of the vehicle. Police apparently discovered more than 800 fentanyl pills in the center console.

Police also found two handguns inside the Nissan — one of which appeared to have fired shots outside the home of State Senator Linda Lopez merely 4 miles away and roughly 40 minutes before the traffic stop.

Another gun matched the description of one police believe Peña took to one of the four shootings. According to police, the weapon malfunctioned, and he left the shooting to one of his hired hands, who allegedly “fired more than a dozen rounds from a separate handgun.”

The first shooting occurred on December 4 when eight rounds were fired into the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. Rep. Javier Martinez’s home was targeted just days later.

On December 11, more than a dozen rounds were fired into the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, according to police.

The final shooting occurred on the night of January 3 at the home of State Senator Linda Lopez. Police said more than a dozen shots were fired, and Lopez said three bullets passed through the bedroom of her 10-year-old daughter.

While gun-related crimes have been on the rise in New Mexico in recent years, they have also become a serious problem in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where Dallas is leading the charge in an incredibly violent first two weeks of the new year with little in the way of an adequate response from City leaders.

Year-to-date, Dallas police clocked steep hikes in reported shooting incidents compared to the same period in 2022, according to the Dallas Police Department’s crime statistics dashboard.

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