By David Shepardson
(Reuters) – An unsuccessful Republican state House candidate in New Mexico was arrested on Monday and accused of orchestrating recent shootings at four local elected officials’ homes, the Albuquerque Police Department said.
Police said on Monday they had arrested Solomon Pena, 39, and accused him of conspiring with, and paying, four other men to shoot at the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators, all Democrats. Police said they had evidence Pena had fired some shots.
Pena lost his election for the state House in November to an incumbent Democrat who garnered more than 73% of the votes.
He posted a photo of himself on Twitter on Nov. 15 with a “Make America Great Again” sweatshirt, a “Trump 2024” flag, and a message that he, like former President Donald Trump, was not conceding his election.
Police said at a press conference Pena had denied his election loss and had approached the commissioners and lawmakers at their homes, claiming election fraud was involved. Police said more people would be charged in the shootings and some suspects were in custody.
A lawyer for Pena could not immediately be identified.
The Albuquerque Journal reported that on Dec. 4 eight shots had been fired into a county commissioner’s home and on Dec. 11 more than 12 bullets had hit another commissioner’s home. On Jan. 3, three bullets fired into a state representative’s home had gone through her 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom, the paper reported.
Albuquerque Police “essentially discovered what we had all feared and what we had suspected — that these shootings were indeed politically motivated,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said at a press conference. “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.”
Citing state records, the Journal reported that Pena previously had been convicted of 19 felonies, including burglary, larceny and had spent almost seven years in prison.