A failed Republican state legislature candidate has been arrested after allegedly targeting the homes of Democratic lawmakers in politically motivated drive-by shootings. Solomon Pena lost the chance to represent New Mexico at state legislature level during the November 2022 midterm elections.
Albuquerque Police have said that Pena was a “mastermind” behind four shootings which took place in the state. He was arrested at his home after Swat officers stormed his home on Monday (16 January) evening.
Pena was vocal about his belief that the election was rigged against him. The state legislature candidate, who had also posted his support for Donald Trump’s new presidential campaign for 2024, had attempted to convince officials of voter fraud which favours his Democratic counterparts.
New Mexico’s state Canvassing Board certified the results following the election, with incumbent Miguel P. Garcia winning by 48 percentage points. However, Pena still believed that the results were “rigged”. This followed the lie peddled by Trump during the Presidential election in 2020, that Joe Biden’s victory had been fraudulent.
What happened to New Mexico lawmakers?
Four New Mexico officials were attacked between December 2022 and early January 2023. This included two county commissioners and two state legislators - Adriann Barboa, Javier Martinez, Debbie O’Malley and Linda Lopez.
The shootings began on 4 December when Barboa’s home was targeted, before Martinez’s home was shot at on 8 December. O’Malley’s home was subject to a shooting on 11 December and Lopez’s home was attacked on 3 January.
Albuquerque Police confirmed that nobody was injured in the shootings. However, there was damage to all four homes as a result of the incidents.
What did officials say about the situation?
Albuquerque deputy commander Kyle Hartsock confirmed that police believed five people were involved in the shootings, including Pena. Police also firmly believe that the drive-by shootings were politically motivated.
Officers said that Pena had approached New Mexico lawmakers in the aftermath of the November election and claimed that the results, which favoured Democratic candidate Garcia, were rigged. He made the claims without any evidence of widespread voter fraud in the state.
The shootings are said to have begun shortly after Pena, who had also voiced his support for former president Donald Trump’s new presidential campaign, approached state lawmakers about the results. The affidavit for his arrest said: “There is probable cause to believe that soon after his unsuccessful (political) campaign, he conspired … to commit these four shootings.”
It is also believed by police that the failed candidate had approached at least one of the legislators targeted at home to discuss the election results. Albuquerque mayor Tim Keller said: “At the end of the day, this was about a right-wing radical, an election denier who was arrested today and someone who did the worst imaginable thing you can do when you have a political disagreement, which is turn that to violence.
“We know we don’t always agree with our elected officials, but that should never, ever lead to violence.”