Ex-Republican candidate arrested after drive-by shootings at Democrats’ homes

Solomon Pena  (AP)
Solomon Pena (AP)

A failed Republican candidate has been arrested in connection with a series of drive-by shootings targeting the homes of Democratic lawmakers in Albuquerque.

Solomon Pena, 39, is said to have been the “mastermind” of a politically motivated conspiracy leading to shootings at the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators between early December and January.

No one was injured in the shootings but in one case three bullets passed through the bedroom of a state senator’s 10-year-old daughter.

Mr Pena is said to have become enraged after losing an election in November against incumbent state Representative Miguel Garcia, the longtime Democrat representing House District 14 in the South Valley. Mr Garcia won by 48 percentage points, or roughly 3,600 votes.

Police said Pena, an election denier, had approached county and state lawmakers after his loss claiming the contest had been rigged against him despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud in New Mexico in 2020 or 2022. The shootings began shortly after those conversations.

“This type of radicalism is a threat to our nation and has made its way to our doorstep right here in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” Mayor Tim Keller said. “But I know we are going to push back, and we will not allow this to cross the threshold.”

Four men conspired with Mr Pena, who is accused of paying them cash to carry out at least two of the drive-by shootings in stolen vehicles, while Mr Pena “pulled the trigger” during one of the crimes, Deputy Police Commander Kyle Hartsock said.

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.