Albuquerque police on Monday arrested the man they say is the “mastermind” behind a recent string of shootings targeting Democratic lawmakers’ homes.
The suspect, Solomon Pena, is a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for office in November, has made repeated claims that the election was rigged and appears to have attended the Jan. 6, 2021, riot in Washington, D.C.
Around 3 p.m. APD’s SWAT team swarmed a condominium complex near the ABQ BioPark Zoo to execute a search warrant. They made announcements for Pena — who they said may be armed with a firearm — to surrender as drones flew overhead.
Within an hour officers had arrested Pena, who is accused of paying four men to shoot at the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators, Police Chief Harold Medina announced Monday evening. Investigators also believe Pena was present for at least one of the shootings.
One of the four men Pena is accused of hiring, Jose Trujillo, is being prosecuted federally on drug trafficking and firearm charges but the names of the other suspects were not immediately released.
Pena ran unsuccessfully in the House District 14 race and claimed on social media he should have won the election. He also visited three of the targeted officials’ homes unannounced in November complaining the election was fraudulent and should not be certified.
“APD essentially discovered what we had all feared and what we had suspected — that these shootings were indeed politically motivated,” Mayor Tim Keller said at a news conference. “They were dangerous attacks not only to these individuals … but, fundamentally, also to democracy.”
Both Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, and the House Republican Leader Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, issued statements applauding law enforcement and condemning violence.
“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,” Lujan Grisham said.
Lane said the New Mexico House Republicans are grateful no one was injured in the shootings and referenced Pena’s criminal past — which had been a controversial issue during the campaign.
“This is yet another example of a convicted felon unlawfully gaining access to firearms, which they are barred from owning or possessing, and using the weapon in a manner that causes public harm,” Lane said.
In early January APD disclosed that it was investigating several shootings targeting Democratic elected officials’ homes around the city.
They said Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa’s Southeast Albuquerque home had been struck by eight bullets on Dec. 4 and a week later, on Dec. 11, more than 12 bullets hit County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley’s North Valley home.
On Jan. 3, shots rang out at state Rep. Linda Lopez’s home in Southwest Albuquerque and three bullets went through her daughter’s bedroom as the 10-year-old slept.
After news of the investigation began to circulate, state Rep. Javier Martínez — the current nominee for House speaker and the representative for District 11 in Southwest Albuquerque — inspected his home and noticed it too had sustained damage from bullets. He had heard gunfire outside his home on Dec. 8 and believes that’s when the shooting occurred.
Police also investigated gunshots fired near the campaign office for Raúl Torrez as he ran for state Attorney General and near the office of State Sen. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, but a department spokesman said Monday detectives don’t have any evidence linking Pena and his alleged accomplices to those shootings at this time.