Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina announced Monday evening, on the eve of the 2022 legislative session, that police arrested a former Republican candidate for office in relation to the shootings at the homes of Albuquerque Democrats.
Albuquerque police say Solomon Peña, 39, conspired with and paid four other men to shoot at the homes of two Bernalillo County commissioners and two legislators.
Peña ran for state House District 14 as a Republican in 2022, losing to incumbent Democrat Miguel Garcia.
“This type of radicalism is a threat to our nation and has made its way to our doorstep here in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said at the press conference.
Peña was arrested following a SWAT situation near downtown Albuquerque when he was served at his residence.
“Earlier today, the Albuquerque Police Department SWAT team took Solomon Peña [into] custody in reference to the shootings and he is the mastermind that was behind this and organizing this,” Medina said at the news conference.
Medina praised the partnerships between APD and other law enforcement agencies including the FBI, New Mexico State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“I would like to thank all the entities that were involved in making sure that this individual and the associates that we know of so far are going to be held accountable in our judicial system and first and foremost that they are now arrested and in custody,” Keller said. “I know for us, you know APD essentially discovered what we had all feared and what we had suspected: that the shootings were indeed politically motivated and that has basically been confirmed by this investigation.”
Police said during the press conference that Peña took his grievances over the elections to the houses of politicians after the loss and at least one of those meetings evolved into an argument.
Police said a member of the alleged conspiracy is speaking to law enforcement.
In recent weeks, reports came out of shootings that took place at the homes of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, then-Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, state Sen. Linda Lopez and state Rep. Javier Martinez. State Sen. Anthony “Moe” Maestas’ law office and Attorney General Raúl Torrez’s campaign headquarters also reported shootings..
Police said there is no evidence that Peña is connected to the office shootings.
Peña was previously convicted of felonies and Garcia attempted to have him removed from the ballot, as a law states felons cannot hold office in New Mexico. A judge ultimately allowed him to stay on the ballot and said the law is unconstitutional.
Peña was convicted as part of a crew of criminals who would crash cars into stores and rob high-end electronics.
Peña ran for office in a heavily blue Democratic district in downtown Albuquerque and refused to concede, despite losing 73.6 percent to 26.4 percent to Garcia, the incumbent who has served in the district since 1997.
Peña wrote on Nov. 15 on Twitter, “Trump just announced for 2024. I stand with him. I never conceded my HD 14 race. Now researching my options.”
Peña expressed an unfounded opinion that his race was “rigged” along with other races across the nation, including the 2nd Congressional District race in New Mexico and the governor’s race in Arizona.
Peña claimed “Once the rigging is stopped, I will be sworn in as the State Rep for district 14” on Twitter on Dec. 12, 2022.
Peña also claimed on Twitter that he was at the Jan. 6 rally, though it’s unclear if he also claimed to be part of the insurrection when supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol.
A statement by the Republican Party of New Mexico condemned the actions.
“These recent accusations against Solomon Pena are serious, and he should be held accountable if the charges are validated in court,” the unsigned statement said. “RPNM condemns all forms of violence. We are thankful that nobody was injured by his actions. If Pena is found guilty, he must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also addressed the arrest.
“I commend the Albuquerque Police Department, State Police and the District Attorney’s Office for a successful partnership to apprehend the suspected perpetrator,” Lujan Grisham said. “There is no place in our society or our democracy for violence against any elected official or their families, and I trust the justice system will hold those responsible for such attacks to full and fair account.”
Peña was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center in Bernalillo County.
Update: Added quotes from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Republican Party of New Mexico.