Failed Republican candidate arrested on suspicion of orchestrating shootings at Democratic homes in New Mexico, police say - CNN (2023)


A former Republican candidate for the New Mexico legislature that police sayalleged voter fraudAfter his defeat, he was arrested on suspicion of orchestrating recent shootings that damaged the homes of elected Democratic leaders in the state, police said.

Solomon Peña, who lost his 2022 bid for the state's 14th District, was arrested Monday by Albuquerque police on charges of paying and conspiring with four men toshoot the housesof two state legislators and two county commissioners in December and January, and of trying to participate in at least one of the shootings, authorities said.

The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) SWAT team on Monday arrested Solomon PeÒa, an unsuccessful 2022 Republican candidate for New Mexico's 14th District, for a series of recent shootings in the homes of local Democratic elected leaders, APD chief Harold Medina said during a news conference. “He is believed to be the mastermind” behind the shootings, Medina added. CNN reached out to Peaa's campaign website for comment and was unable to identify his attorney. home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa; on December 8 at the home of the mayor, Javier Martínez; on December 11 at the home of then-commissioner Bernalillo Debbie OíMalley; and on January 3 at the home of state senator Linda López, says an APD press release. Albuquerque Police Department What we know about former Republican candidate arrested in connection to New Mexico shootings at Democratic homes

While no one was injured in the shooting, Pena "intended to [cause] serious injury or cause death to the occupants within their homes," an arrest warrant obtained from Albuquerque police reads.

"There are probable reasons to believe that shortly after his failed (political) campaign, he conspired... to commit these four shootings" at the officers' homes, the affidavit read.

Before the shooting, Pena, after losing the election, approached county commissioners and at least one lawmaker at their homes, without invitation, to claim the election results were rigged, police and officials said. officials.

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

Failed Republican candidate arrested on suspicion of orchestrating shootings at Democratic homes in New Mexico, police say - CNN (2)

Albuquerque police released a photo of a "beige and black Glock with a battery charger" which the affidavit says matches one of the weapons seized from the suspect during a traffic stop.

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

Read the arrest warrant statement

“At the end of the day, this was a radical right-wing, an election denier who was arrested today and someone who did the worst thing imaginable when you have a political disagreement, which is turn it into violence,” he said. he said he. . said Keller, a Democrat. "We know we don't always agree with our elected officials, but that should never lead to violence."

Doubts about the veracity of the election, particularly among Republicans and generally without evidence, have erupted across the country since then-President Donald Trump lost his re-election bid and beganpropagating falsehoodsThe 2020 presidential election was stolen. The claims havefueled rage- and no regretsthreats of violence– against public officials down to the local level.

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Shots were fired at the homes of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa on December 4; the new President of the Chamber, Javier Martínez, on December 8; then Commissioner Bernalillo Debbie O'Malley on December 11; and State Sen. Linda Lopez on Jan. 3, police said in a news release.

The department is still investigating whether the suspects who carried out the shooting "knew who these targets were or if they were just shooting," the Albuquerque deputy police chief said. Kyle Hartsock said Monday.

"No one was injured in the shooting, which resulted in damage to four homes," an Albuquerque police statement said.

Failed Republican candidate arrested on suspicion of orchestrating shootings at Democratic homes in New Mexico, police say - CNN (4)

Pena was taken into custody Monday by Albuquerque police.

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

“I am relieved to know that people will no longer be attacked in this way by him,” he said.

Peña was arrested on preliminary felony charges for possession of a firearm; attempted aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; criminal solicitation; and four counts of shooting in an occupied residence, shooting in or from a motor vehicle, and conspiracy pursuant to a court order.

"Charges are expected to be filed for the other men who participated in the shooting," the police statement read.

Before the shootings, Peña became close to at least some of the employees, authorities say.

During the fall campaign, Peña's opponent, Democratic State Representative Miguel Garcia, filed to have Peña removed from the ballot, arguing that Peña's status as a former criminal should preclude him from running for public office. in the state.CNN affiliate KOATinformed. Pena served nearly seven years in prison after a 2008 conviction for stealing a large volume of property in a "smash and seizure scheme," according to the KOAT report.

“You can't hide from your own story,” Peña told the agency in September. “I had nothing but the desire to improve my lot in life.”

A district court judge ruled that Peña was allowed to run, according to KOAT. Helost the breedfor Garcia, 26% to 74%, but a week latertweetedthat he "never quit" the race and was investigating his options.

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“After the November elections, Salomón Peña sought out and hired someone for a sum of money to commit at least two of these shootings. The addresses of the shootings were communicated by phone," Hartsock said Monday, citing the investigation. "Within hours, in one case, the shooting took place at the legislator's home."

Evidence from firearms, surveillance video, cellphone and electronic records, and witnesses inside and outside the conspiracy aided the investigation and helped authorities connect five people to that conspiracy, Hartsock said.

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

He approached Barboa without an invitation to claim the results were fraudulent, Barboa said.

“He came to my house after the elections. ... He was saying that the elections were fake ... really speaking erratically. I didn't feel threatened at the time, but I did feel like he was erratic," Barboa told "CNN This Morning" on Tuesday.

Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, shows bullet holes in her garage door after her Westside home was shot up on Jan. 3, in Albuquerque, N.M. houses and offices in albuquerque

On the afternoon of December 4, about eight shots were fired at Barboa's home and a parked vehicle, police said. Barboa discovered the shots after returning from Christmas shopping, he said.

“My house was shot four times through the front door and the windows, where a few hours before my grandson and I were playing in the living room,” Barboa said in a statement. "Prosecuting this attack continues to be incredibly onerous, especially knowing that other elected women and people of color, with children and grandchildren, have been targeted."

In mid-December, O'Malley, the other county commissioner, called police to say that the adobe fence surrounding his house had been damaged by gunfire. As police investigated, O'Malley mentioned that Pena had come to his house a day or two before the incident, complaining about the recent election results, the affidavit says.

"Debbie recalled that he was upset that he did not win the election for public office despite the fact that (sic) Debbie O'Malley was not a candidate," the statement read.

Failed Republican candidate arrested on suspicion of orchestrating shootings at Democratic homes in New Mexico, police say - CNN (7)

Doorbell camera video shows Pena looking for Debbie O'Malley at an address where she lived.

Doorbell camera footage recorded at O'Malley's previous residence and obtained by CNN shows him approaching the door and knocking, documents in hand.

January 16, 2023, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA: Roberto E. Rosales. In the photo, Solomon Pena (Cq), a Republican candidate for New Mexico House District 14, was detained by APD agents Monday afternoon in southwest Albuquerque. .Albuquerque, New Mexico/Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal (Credit Image: © Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA Press Wire) Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal/Zuma Read the arrest warrant for the Republican candidate Disapproved Solomon Peña Arrested in New Mexico

The current resident speaks to him through the camera's speakerphone, tells him that O'Malley no longer lives at that residence, and directs him to his new home.

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

“County commissioners and Senator Lopez told detectives that Peña…provided them with documents that he claimed indicated fraud in the election results,” the police statement read.

Dissatisfied with initial shots, Peña wanted snipers to aim lower, testimony says

One of the conspirators initially instructed the gunmen to "aim above the windows to avoid hitting anyone inside," the affidavit says, citing a confidential witness with knowledge of the alleged plot.

But Peña ended up wanting the shooters to be "more aggressive," the statement said, citing the confidential witness.

Peña “wanted them to aim lower and shoot around 8 at night. because the occupants probably would not have been lying down," the statement said, citing the confidential witness.

Lopez told police that she "heard loud banging but dismissed it as fireworks at the time." Lopez's daughter woke up thinking a spider was crawling across her face and that it looked like there was sand in her bed, Lopez told police.

Officers discovered that "plaster dust fell on Linda's daughter's face and bed as a result of gunshots passing through her bedroom," the affidavit says. Officers found "12 impacts at (Lopez's) residence," according to the affidavit.

Cartridges at Lopez's home were found to match a gun that was seized from a silver Nissan Maxima that was stopped at a traffic stop about 40 minutes after the shooting and about 4 miles from the residence, police said in their news release. .

The Maxima was registered to Pena, although Pena was not driving it when he was pulled over, police said.

In the latest shooting, police found evidence that "Pena himself was ... and did in fact pull the trigger on at least one of the firearms that was used," said Albuquerque police deputy commander Hartsock. But an AR weapon he tried to use did not work, and another shooter fired more than a dozen shots with a separate weapon, a police statement said.

Detectives served search warrants Monday at Pena's apartment and at the home of two men allegedly paid by Pena, police said in the news release, adding that Pena did not speak to detectives.

Police announced last week that they had a suspect in custody and obtained a firearm related to one of the shootings at the homes of elected officials.

The authorities hadSaid beforethey had been investigating two other reported shootings since December, near the state attorney general's campaign office and near the law office of a state senator. Detectives no longer believe those two incidents are connected to the other four, police said Monday.

Failed Republican candidate arrested on suspicion of orchestrating shootings at Democratic homes in New Mexico, police say - CNN (9)

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

Commissioner: 'I am very relieved'

O'Malley, the then-county commissioner whose home police say was shot at in December, is pleased with the arrest, he said.

“I am so relieved, and so is my family. I really appreciate the job that the police have done," O'Malley told CNN on Monday night. O'Malley and her husband were sleeping when shots rang out at her Albuquerque home, she said.

Martinez, the new president of the state whose home was also shot at, is grateful that a suspect is in custody, he told CNN in a statement. “We have seen a lot of political violence lately and all of these events are powerful reminders that inciting fear, escalating tensions and stoking hatred can have devastating consequences,” he said.

In her statewide address Tuesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called the shootings "despicable acts of political violence" and thanked police for working "quickly and tirelessly to apprehend all suspects in these heinous attacks."

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

CNN's Josh Campbell and Jack Hannah contributed to this report.

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