A failed New Mexico state House candidate visited the homes of local Democratic leaders to vehemently dispute his election loss weeks before he allegedly orchestrated a series of shootings at the residences, elected officials said.
Republican Solomon Pena is accused of conspiring with and paying four men to carry out four shootings at Albuquerque-area homes of two Bernalillo County commissioners and two state legislators, Albuquerque police said.
No one was hurt in the shootings.
Police announced his arrest Monday evening.
“Pena came to my house right after the (November) election. He was sort of erratic in the points he was trying to make about the election, and about how many doors he knocked on and how the number of votes didn’t match,” Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa said in a phone interview with NBC News.
Barboa said she called police after the incident.
“He was at my door, and he was aggressive. He was an election denier,” said Barboa, who had eight shots fired at her home on Dec. 4, the first in the series of shootings that targeted local and state Democrats.
Former County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley shared a similar experience with Pena, an avowed supporter of President Donald Trump and election denier, around the same time after he first visited her former home before tracking her down at her current address.
“This guy came to my home. I was very concerned about it and it was very unsettling. He was angry about losing the election,” she said. “He felt the election was unfair and untrue.”
While he did not threaten her during the November encounter, she did call authorities, and deputies patrolled her house for a few days.
But weeks later — on Dec. 11 — her home was struck with 12 bullets while she and her husband slept, police have said.
He “could have killed us,” O’Malley has said.
Police found two handguns in a Nissan Maxima owned by Pena during a Jan. 3 traffic stop. One of the guns appeared to have fired shots outside the home of state Sen. Linda Lopez roughly 40 minutes before and 4 miles away, police said in a statement. A shell casing found in the Maxima matched those found outside the home of new state House Speaker Javier Martinez on Dec. 8, police said.
Police said Pena might have been motivated by anger over his November loss. Police spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said at a news conference early Monday evening that Pena claimed his defeat was the result of election fraud.
There is no evidence to support his claims.
Pena lost his state House challenge to incumbent Democrat Miguel P. Garcia by 5,679 to 2,033, or 74 percent to 26 percent.
Pena claimed the election was rigged in a Nov. 16 comment on his official Twitter account.
“No. It is rigged. Plain and simple,” Pena responded to a post of the election results.
Efforts to reach Pena were not successful Tuesday.
He took his case to three county commissioners and a state senator — some whose homes were targeted in the shootings — to no avail, Gallegos said.
“He had complaints about his election he felt being rigged,” Gallegos said. “As the mayor said, he was an election denier — he doesn’t want to accept the results of his election.”
One of the meetings with local and state leaders became heated, he said.
“One actually led to quite an argument, I believe,” Gallegos said. “It was shortly after that the shootings occurred.”
Two other shootings previously believed to have been linked to the case — on Dec. 10 at the former campaign office of Raúl Torrez, who was elected New Mexico’s attorney general, and Jan. 5 outside the downtown law offices of newly appointed state Sen. Moe Maestas — haven’t been connected to the suspect, police said Monday.
State records show that Monday’s arrest was not Pena’s first.
Across three cases in 2007, Pena was convicted of 20 charges, including burglary, receiving stolen property and larceny. Multiple charges of bribing or intimidating a witness were dropped by the prosecutor.
Pena also received a reduction to his sentence for time served prior to trial, which appears to have gotten him down to the nine year mark he said he served in a comment on his verified Twitter account.
Pena was also ordered to go through alcohol/substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling, 90 days in Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous and anger management, court records show.
Because of his record, he lost his right to vote. He was eligible for the reinstatement of those rights only in 2021 — the year he completed his probation — which means he likely never cast a vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.
Pena is estranged from his immediate family, according to his oldest brother, Joseph Pena, who lives in Dallas.
“He hasn’t talked to us in years. It’s probably been, I don’t know, 15 years,” he said.
Joseph Pena said he doesn’t know why his brother stopped talking to the family, adding “he just stopped talking to us, I’m sure he has his reasons.”
Due to the estrangement, Joseph Pena knows nothing about his brother’s arrest, he said.
“I got to find out the details about it,” he said. “I don’t see why he’d talk to us now.”
Sharon Bode, who has lived in the same building as Pena for the last few years, recalled him “riling people up during the election period.”
“He put vulgar signs up in his windows and on his car. People in the building were not happy,” Bode said, adding the signs “criticized Joe Biden.”
Bode says her partner, who passed away a year ago, had several interactions with Pena.
“My partner got into difficult, unsolicited conversations with him as she came in and out of the building,” she said. “He’s not a polite, nice person.”