Failed Republican arrested for hiring gunmen to attack Democrats

A failed Republican candidate for the New Mexico legislature has been arrested for allegedly hiring four hitmen to conduct shootings against Democratic officials.

Solomon Pena, 39, who ran for a seat in the House of Representatives last November and claimed the election was “rigged,” was arrested Monday after a standoff with a SWAT team in Albuquerque.

He was charged with hiring four hitmen to open fire on the homes of Adriann Barboa and Debbie O’Malley, two Bernalillo County commissioners, as well as Sen. Linda Lopez and Rep. Javier Martinez.

The shootings took place between December 4, 2022 and January 3, 2023, officials said.

Solomon Pena, who ran for a seat in the New Mexico House last November, was arrested Monday after a standoff with a SWAT team in Albuquerque. He is accused of staging shootings at four Democratic officials in the state

Solomon Pena, who ran for a seat in the New Mexico House last November, was arrested Monday after a standoff with a SWAT team in Albuquerque. He is accused of staging shootings at four Democratic officials in the state

Senator Linda Lopez

State MP Javier Martinez

The shootings targeted Senator Linda Lopez (left) and Rep. Javier Martinez (right), Speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives

AdrianBarbara

Debbie O'Malley

Also targets of the shootings were Bernalillo County Commissioners Adriann Barboa (left) and Debbie O’Malley (right).

Lopez stands next to the bullet holes left in her garage door after the Jan. 3 shooting, where three bullets also missed her 10-year-old daughter's room

Lopez stands next to the bullet holes left in her garage door after the Jan. 3 shooting, where three bullets also missed her 10-year-old daughter’s room

The shootings began on December 4 when eight shots were fired at Barboa’s home. Days later, the home of State Assemblyman Javier Martinez was attacked, followed by a December 11 shooting at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley.

More than a dozen rounds were fired at her home, according to police.

The last related shooting, targeting the home of state Senator Linda Lopez, occurred at midnight on January 3. Police said more than a dozen shots were fired and Lopez said three of the bullets went through her 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom.

Following Pena’s arrest Monday, Albuquerque Deputy Police Commander Kyle Hartsock said at least four hitmen were believed to have been involved in the shooting, with the politician serving as the “mastermind.”

Police officers noted that investigators believe Pena was the shooter in at least one of the attacks on Democratic officers.

Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said the shootings appeared to be a politically motivated conspiracy.

Pena ran unsuccessfully in November against incumbent Congressman Miguel P. Garcia, the longtime Democrat representing House District 14 in the South Valley. Garcia won by 48 percentage points, or around 3,600 votes.

After the election, police said, Pena showed up uninvited at the homes of elected officials and allegedly brought documents proving he had won his race. There was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in New Mexico in 2020 or 2022.

The shootings began shortly after these talks.

“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 will fight back and we will not allow this to cross the threshold.”

Pena (above) ran for state representative last year and lost to incumbent state representative Miguel P. Garcia, who won with 48 percent

Pena (above) ran for state representative last year and lost to incumbent state representative Miguel P. Garcia, who won with 48 percent

Pena insisted his loss at half-time was

Pena insisted his loss at half-time was “rigged” as officials claimed it fueled his decision to hire hitmen against state Democrats

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

Detectives identified Pena as their prime suspect using a combination of cellphone and vehicle records, witness interviews and bullet casings collected from lawmakers’ homes, police said.

An attorney for Pena who could comment on the allegations was not listed in prison records Monday night.

No one was injured in the shooting, which took place amid a surge in threats against members of Congress, school board members, election officials and other government officials across the country.

In Albuquerque, law enforcement is struggling to deal with years of record killings and gun violence.

Investigators were given a break in the case after technology that can detect the sound of gunshots led an officer to Lopez’s neighborhood shortly after the shots were fired.

The officer found bullet casings that matched a handgun found later that morning in a Pena-registered Nissan Maxima.

Around 1:30 a.m., about an hour after the shooting at Lopez’s home, police pulled up the Nissan about 4 miles from the legislator’s neighborhood.

The driver, identified Monday night as Jose Trujillo, was arrested on an outstanding warrant, which led to the discovery of more than 800 fentanyl pills and two firearms in the car, police said.

A criminal complaint detailing the charges against the former political candidate should be released in the coming days. Further arrests and charges were also expected, but police declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing investigation.

Detectives were also looking into two other shootings that they initially believed could be related to the Pena case: one near the former campaign office of New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez and another in state Senator Antonio Maestas’ office. Police said Monday the shootings do not appear to be connected.

The New Mexico Republican Party condemned Pena in a statement Monday night. “If Pena is found guilty, he must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11644395/Failed-GOP-candidate-claimed-election-rigged-arrested-hiring-four-hitmen.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Failed Republican arrested for hiring gunmen to attack Democrats

Bradford Betz

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