Solomon Peña, a former Republican candidate for state office in New Mexico, has been arrested after a string of recent shootings targeting the homes of elected Democratic officials in the state. Peña is suspected of orchestrating the attacks.
The incidents in New Mexico came amid other politically motivated violence in the U.S. following the November election, including the assault on then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) husband.
The shootings and subsequent arrest of Peña reverberated through state and national politics, leaving many to wonder just who Peña is.
Peña ran for the state legislature, refused to concede
Peña launched a campaign for the New Mexico legislature in the 2022 midterms, challenging Democratic incumbent Rep. Miguel Garcia. Democrats control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s mansion in New Mexico.
Peña had served nearly seven years in prison after being convicted in 2008 of stealing goods in a “smash and grab scheme,” according to CNN affiliate KOAT.
His opponent Garcia attempted to get Peña removed from the ballot before the election, saying his status as an ex-felon should have prevented him from running in the state. A state court cleared Peña to be able to run in the election, according to KOAT.
Peña lost the race handily, receiving just 26 percent of the vote.
Peña tweeted after the election that he “never conceded” his race against Garcia and was “researching” his options. Peña leaned into the rhetoric of right-wing candidates who have challenged election results since former President Trump and his supporters launched attacks against the results of the 2020 election, calling into question the integrity of the country’s voting systems.
Beyond launching a social media campaign claiming that he was not conceding his election to Garcia, Peña took it upon himself to compile and present evidence of what he said was clear election fraud.
Allegedly, Peña personally approached local and state officials with claims of election fraud after his defeat and before the shootings. He approached a legislator and county commissioners at their homes with paperwork that he said was evidence of fraud, according to police.
One of the houses where he delivered the paperwork was that of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa, which had shots fired at it weeks later.
Peña’s support of Trump and election denialism
After Trump formally announced his 2024 bid for the White House, Peña took to Twitter to voice his support for the former president’s third campaign. Posed in a red “Make America Great Again” sweatshirt, Peña stands next to two Trump flags and says in the tweet: “Trump just announced for 2024. I stand with him.”
Peña latched onto the rhetoric of right-wingers who challenged election results all across the country. In a reply to a tweet from House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Peña outlined his belief that “New Mexico elections are absolutely rigged.”
“And we will pursue justice,” he said.
“When we finally defeat the rigged NM elections, oh, the hero I will be! MAGA nation 4ever!” he said in another tweet on Jan. 9.
The four shootings at the homes of state officials
Between Dec. 4 and Jan. 4, there were four separate shootings at the homes of four different state and local officials. On top of the shots fired at Barboa’s home, which happened on Dec. 4, shots were also fired at the home of incoming state House Speaker Javier Martinez (D) on Dec. 8; then-Bernalillo Commissioner Debbie O’Malley on Dec. 11; and state Sen. Linda Lopez on Jan. 3, according to police.
Peña was arrested in Albuquerque on Monday.
After police told reporters that Peña was the believed “mastermind” behind the shootings, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said the investigation confirmed that the shootings were politically motivated.
An arrest warrant for Peña concluded that there was probable cause to believe that after he lost his election in November, he paid four men and provided them with firearms to commit the shootings at the four homes. It also concludes that Peña personally participated in at least one of the shootings.
“Solomon intended to serious injury (sic) or cause death to occupants inside their homes,” the warrant concluded.
Peña was arrested on preliminary charges of felon in possession of a firearm; attempted aggravated battery with a deadly weapon; criminal solicitation; and four counts each of shooting at an occupied dwelling, shooting at or from a motor vehicle, and conspiracy.