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Solomon Peña: Failed GOP candidate arrested on suspicion of planning shootings at Democratic homes in New Mexico, police say

Solomon Peña: Failed GOP candidate arrested on suspicion of planning shootings at Democratic homes in New Mexico, police say

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A former Republican candidate for the New Mexico Legislature, according to police claimed election fraud since his defeat, has been arrested on suspicion of masterminding recent shootings that damaged the homes of democratically elected leaders in the state, police said.

Solomon Peña, who lost his 2022 bid for state District 14, was arrested Monday by Albuquerque police on charges of paying and conspiring with four men to shoot at homes of two state legislators and two county commissioners in December and January — and that they tried to be involved in at least one of the shootings, authorities said.

Although the shootings did not injure anyone, Peña “intended to (cause) serious injury or death to occupants of their homes,” according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Albuquerque police.

“There is probable cause to believe that shortly after his failed (political) campaign, he conspired … to commit these four shootings” at the officials’ homes, the affidavit said.

Before the shooting, Peña — after losing the election — had approached county commissioners and at least one legislator at their homes uninvited to claim the election results were fraudulent, police and officials said.

CNN reached out to Peña’s campaign website for comment and was unable to identify his attorney.

An investigation confirmed that “these shootings were indeed politically motivated,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Monday.

Read the arrest warrant affidavit

“At the end of the day, this is about a right-wing, election-denying radical who was arrested today and someone who has done the worst thing you can do when you have a political disagreement, which is turn it into violence,” Keller said. a democrat. “We know we don’t always agree with our elected officials, but that should never, ever lead to violence.”

Doubts about the credibility of the election, mainly among Republicans and usually without evidence, have exploded across the country since then-President Donald Trump lost his re-election bid and began spreading falsehoods the 2020 presidential election was stolen. They have claims inflamed anger – and irrevocable threats of violence – against civil servants up to the local level.

On December 4, the homes of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adrian Barboa were shot at; incoming Speaker of the House Javier Martinez on December 8; then-Bernalillo Commissioner Debbie O’Malley on Dec. 11; and state Sen. Linda Lopez on Jan. 3, police said in a news release.

The department is still investigating whether the shooting suspects were “even aware of who these targets were or were just shooting,” said Albuquerque Police Deputy Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock said Monday.

“No one was injured in the shooting, which damaged four homes,” Albuquerque police said in a statement.

Barbois, whose home investigators say was the scene of the first shooting, is grateful for the arrest in the case, she told CNN This Morning on Tuesday.

“I’m relieved to hear that people will no longer be targeted in this way by him,” she said.

Peña was arrested on preliminary charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm; attempted battery with a deadly weapon; criminal solicitation; and four counts of shooting at an inhabited dwelling, shooting at or from a motor vehicle and conspiracy, according to a warrant.

“Charges are expected to be filed against the other men involved in the shooting,” police said in a statement.

During the fall campaign, Peña’s opponent, Democratic Rep. Miguel Garcia, filed a lawsuit to remove Peña from the ballot, arguing that Peña’s status as an ex-felon should prevent him from running for public office in the state. CNN partner KOAT reported. Peña served nearly seven years in prison after being convicted in 2008 of stealing a large amount of merchandise in a “smash and grab scheme,” the KOAT report said.

“You can’t hide from your own history,” Peña told the publication in September. “I had nothing more than a desire to improve my lot in life.”

A district court judge ruled that Peña was allowed to run in the election, according to KOAT. He lost his race for Garcia, 26% to 74%, but a week later tweeted that he “never acknowledged” the race and was exploring his options.

“After the November election, Solomon Peña reached out and hired someone with cash to carry out at least two of these shootings. The shooting addresses were reported over the phone,” Hartsock said Monday, citing the investigation. “Within hours, in one case, the shooting happened at the deputy’s home.”

Firearm evidence, surveillance video, cell phone and electronic records and witnesses in and around the plot aided the investigation and helped officers link five people to that plot, Hartsock said.

Peña tried to visit at least some of the officers before shooting at their homes.

He approached Barbois uninvited to claim the results were fraudulent, Barbois said.

“He came to my house after the election. … He was saying that the election was rigged … irregular indeed. I didn’t feel threatened at the time, but I did feel like I was unstable,” Barbois told “CNN This Morning” on Tuesday.

About eight shots were fired at Barbois’ house and a parked vehicle on the afternoon of Dec. 4, police said. Barbois discovered the shots after returning from the Christmas market, she said.

“My house had four shots fired through the front door and windows where just hours before my grandson and I were playing in the living room,” Barbois said in a statement. “Processing this attack continues to be incredibly difficult, especially knowing that other women and elected officials of color with children and grandchildren have been targeted.”

In mid-December, O’Malley, the other county commissioner, called police to say the adobe fence at her home had been damaged by gunfire. As police investigated, O’Malley mentioned that Peña had been coming to her home a day or two before the incident, complaining about the recent election results, the affidavit said.

“Debbie recalled being upset that he did not win the election for public office even though (sic) Debbie O’Malley was not a contender,” the affidavit states.

The doorbell camera video shows Peña looking for Debbie O'Malley at an address where she lived.

Doorbell footage recorded at O’Malley’s former residence and obtained by CNN shows him walking up to the door and knocking, documents in hand.

The current occupant speaks to him through the camera speaker, telling him that O’Malley no longer lives at that residence and directing him to her new home.

Lopez, the state senator whose home was shot at on Jan. 3, also told detectives that Peña showed up uninvited at her home after the election.

“County commissioners and Sen. Lopez told detectives that Peña … provided them with documents he believed showed fraud in the election results,” police said in a statement.

One of the conspirators initially instructed the shooters to “aim above the windows to avoid hitting anyone inside,” the affidavit said, citing a confidential witness familiar with the alleged conspiracy.

But Peña ultimately wanted the shooters to be “more aggressive,” the affidavit said, citing the confidential witness.

Peña “wanted them to aim lower and shoot around 8:00 p.m. because it was more likely that the occupants would not go to bed,” the affidavit said, citing the confidential witness.

Lopez told police she “heard loud bangs but dismissed them as fireworks at that point.” Lopez’s daughter woke up thinking a spider was crawling on her face and that it felt like there was sand in her bed, Lopez told police.

Officers found that “sheet metal dust had been blown onto Linda’s daughter’s face and bed as a result of a firearm projectile(s) traveling into her bedroom overhead,” the affidavit said. Officers found “12 hits to (Lopez’s) residence,” according to the affidavit.

Shell casings at Lopez’s home eventually matched a handgun that was recovered from a silver Nissan Maxima that had been stopped about 40 minutes after the shooting and about 4 miles from the residence, police said in a news release.

The Maxima was registered to Peña, although Peña was not driving it when he was stopped, police said.

In the latest shooting, police found evidence that “Peña himself went … and actually pulled the trigger on at least one of the firearms that were used,” said Hartsock, Albuquerque’s deputy police chief. But an AR pistol he tried to use malfunctioned and more than a dozen rounds were fired by another shooter from a separate gun, police said in a news release.

Detectives served search warrants Monday at Peña’s apartment and the home of two men who were allegedly paid by Peña, police said in the news release, adding that Peña has not spoken to detectives.

Last week, police announced they had a suspect in custody and recovered a firearm related to one of the shootings at the homes of elected officials.

The authorities had said earlier they investigated two other reports of gunfire since December — near the attorney general’s campaign office and near a state senator’s law office. Detectives no longer believe those two incidents are connected to the other four, police said Monday.

State Sen. Linda Lopez shows bullet holes in her garage door after her home was shot at last month.

O’Malley, then the county commissioner whose police say she was shot in December, was pleased an arrest had been made, she said.

“I am very relieved – and so is my family. I’m very appreciative of the work that the police did,” O’Malley told CNN Monday night. O’Malley and her husband were asleep when shots were fired at her Albuquerque home, she said.

Martinez, the incoming House speaker whose home was also shot at, is grateful the suspect is in custody, he said in a statement to CNN. “We have seen too much political violence recently and all these events are a stark reminder that stoking fear, raising tensions and stoking hatred can have devastating consequences,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Debbie O’Malley’s first name.

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