The Republican candidate arrested this week in connection with a string of recent shootings targeting Democratic politicians’ homes in New Mexico following his failed statehouse bid there paid at least $500 to four men to open fire at the properties, police have revealed.
Solomon Pena, 39, is now set to make an initial court appearance Wednesday on charges including multiple counts of shooting at a home and shooting from a motor vehicle, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, conspiracy and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The shootings began Dec. 4, when eight rounds were fired at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. Days later, state Rep. Javier Martinez’s home was targeted. On Dec. 11, more than a dozen rounds were fired at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, police said.
The final related shooting, targeting state Sen. Linda Lopez’s home, unfolded in the midnight hour of Jan. 3. Police said more than a dozen shots were fired, including three that Lopez said passed through the bedroom of her sleeping 10-year-old daughter.
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Pena went along for the final drive-by, with his gun jamming as bullets ripped into the bedroom of the girl, police said. He was detained by a SWAT team Monday at a condominium building in Albuquerque.
Pena ran unsuccessfully in November against incumbent state Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, the longtime Democrat representing House District 14 in the South Valley. Pena got 26% of the vote.
Prior to being taken into custody this week, Pena spent nine years behind bars following an arrest in April 2007 for stealing electronics and other goods from several retail stores as part of what authorities described as a burglary crew.
He was released from prison in March 2016, and had his voting rights restored after completing five years probation in April 2021, corrections officials said, according to The Associated Press.
Pena, whose criminal past came up during his recent campaign, repeatedly made claims that the election was ‘rigged’ against him.
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On Nov. 15, he posted an image of himself in a ‘Make America Great Again’ hoodie, The Associated Press reported, saying, ‘Trump just announced for 2024. I stand with him. I never conceded my HD 14 race. Now researching my options.’
No one was wounded in the drive-by shootings. But the New Mexico Republican Party has said, ‘If Peña is found guilty, he must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.’
A criminal complaint viewed by the AP said Pena hired a father and son with criminal histories of their own as well as two brothers whom authorities have yet to identify. Officials accuse Pena of paying at least $500 to the four men to shoot at the homes
Detectives identified Pena as their key suspect using a combination of cellphone and vehicle records, witness interviews and bullet casings collected at the lawmakers’ homes, police said.
One of the witnesses, according to the AP, said one of the men told the shooters to aim above the homes’ windows to avoid striking anyone inside, but Pena showed up for the Lopez shooting ‘to ensure better target acquisition.’
Elsewhere, neighbors who lived next to Pena at the condo building in Albuquerque told NBC News he was not a ‘nice person’ and once was ordered to take down a ‘F— Biden’ banner hanging in his window there.
‘We made him take it down, because it violated one of the guidelines of our building, which is you can’t put flags in the window,’ Tom Parks, a Six Hundred Alcalde West condominiums board member, told the network, adding that the banner said ‘F— Biden and anybody who voted for him.’
‘My partner got into difficult, unsolicited conversations with him as she came in and out of the building,’ Sharon Bode, identified by NBC News as another neighbor, also said. ‘He’s not a polite, nice person.’
Fox News’ Bradford Betz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.