Former Republican hopeful arrested over shooting at Democrats’ homes | Police News

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US police say Solomon Pena, 39, was the “mastermind” of a political conspiracy that led to a shooting in New Mexico.

A failed Republican candidate who US authorities say was angry about his loss and made baseless claims that the November election was “rigged” against him has been arrested in connection with a series of drive-by shootings that targeted the homes of Democratic lawmakers in New Mexico.

Solomon Pena, 39, was arrested Monday night, hours after officers took him into custody and served a search warrant at his home, police said.

Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina described Pena as the “mastermind” of what he said appears to be a politically motivated conspiracy that led to the shootings at the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators from early December to early January. .

No one was injured in the shootings, but in one case, three bullets went through the bedroom of a 10-year-old girl at a state senator.

Pena ran unsuccessfully in November against state Representative Miguel P Garcia, the longtime congressman for House District 14 in the South Valley of the Albuquerque metropolitan area. Garcia won by 48 percentage points, or about 3,600 votes.

After the election, police said, Pena showed up uninvited at the homes of elected officials with what he said were documents proving he had won his race. There was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in New Mexico in 2020 or 2022.

The shootings began soon after these conversations.

“This kind of radicalization is a threat to our country and it has made its way to our doorstep here in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “But I know we are going to push back, and we will not let this cross the threshold.”

Four men conspired with Pena, who are accused of paying them for at least two of the stolen vehicle shootings, with Pena “pulling the trigger” in one of the crimes, Deputy Police Chief Kyle Hartsock said.

Investigators identified Pena as the prime suspect using a combination of cell phone and vehicle records, witness interviews and bullet casings collected at the lawmakers’ homes, police said. His arrest came a week after Medina announced that investigators had identified a suspect in the shootings.

Jail records available late Monday did not list an attorney for Pena who could comment on the charges against him.

These estates revealed the rise of threats against members of the United States Congress, school board members, election officials and other government employees across the country. In Albuquerque, law enforcement has struggled to cope with back-to-back years of record homicides and ongoing gun violence.

The shootings began on December 4 when eight rounds were fired at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. Days later, the home of state Representative Javier Martinez was targeted, followed by a December 11 shooting at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley. More than a dozen rounds were fired at her home, police said.

The last related shooting targeted the home of Senator Linda Lopez. It appeared at midnight on January 3rd. Police said more than a dozen shots were fired, and Lopez said three of the bullets went through her 10-year-old’s bedroom.

Investigators got a break in the case after gunshot detection technology led officers to Lopez’s area shortly after the shots were fired.

The officer found bullet casings consistent with a handgun found later that morning in a Nissan Maxima registered to Pena. About an hour after the shooting at Lopez’s home, police stopped the Nissan about 6km (4 miles) from the lawmaker’s neighborhood.

The driver, identified Monday night as Jose Trujillo, was arrested on an outstanding warrant, which led to the discovery of more than 800 fentanyl pills and two guns in the car, police said.

A criminal complaint detailing the exact allegations against the former political candidate was expected to be released in the coming days. Additional arrests and charges were also expected, but police declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation.

The New Mexico Republican Party condemned Pena in a statement, saying, “If Pena is found guilty, he must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

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