Failed New Mexico candidate is a danger to the community, prosecutors say

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — Prosecutors say a failed Republican candidate accused of orchestrating a series of drive-by shootings at the homes of Democratic elected officials in New Mexico’s largest city is a danger to the community and should be detained pending trial. .

They filed a motion Wednesday, asking that Solomon Peña be held without bail. He appeared via chained video for an initial court appearance when a judge explained that he would remain in custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for next month.

Defense attorney Roberta Yurcic said she would request that conditions be set so that her client can be released as his case progresses in state district court. But prosecutors argued in the motion that neither condition would guarantee the safety of the community.

“Defendant’s actions show how far he is willing to go when he is not satisfied with reality,” the motion states. He “he Organized several shootings at various houses and was personally involved in at least one of the shootings. There is no reason to believe that someone so unwilling to accept reality will give credence to court-ordered conditions of release.”

Peña is charged with multiple counts stemming from shootings that began in early December and continued into January. The charges include shooting in a house, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Authorities identified the 39-year-old offender as the key suspect using a combination of cell phone and vehicle records, bullet casings collected near officers’ homes and information from a confidential witness.

Pena had posted on social media after the November election that he was “rigged” and would not budge despite losing his state legislature bid in a district that has been held by Democrats for years.

According to a criminal complaint, the political newcomer allegedly paid four men to shoot at the homes of Democratic officials, including a house where a 10-year-old girl was sleeping.

The case of Peña, who had posted photos of himself online with Donald Trump’s campaign material, is one of dozens across the United States where people have threatened, and in some cases attempted, violence against members of Congress, members of school boards and other election officials.

Peña, a self-proclaimed “king of MAGA,” expressed his dissatisfaction with the election and the certification of the results in a text message sent to one of his alleged accomplices in November.

Other messages included the addresses of the officials who were attacked.

A SWAT team arrested Pena on Monday.

Peña spent nine years behind bars after his April 2007 arrest for stealing electronics and other items from retail stores as part of what authorities described as a robbery team. He was released from prison in March 2016 and had his voting rights restored after completing five years of probation in April 2021, corrections officials said.

Peña ran unsuccessfully in November against incumbent state Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, the longtime Democrat representing House District 14 in the South Valley. Peña obtained 26% of the votes.

On November 15, he posted a picture of himself wearing a “Make America Great Again” hoodie, saying, “Trump just announced by 2024. I’m with him. I never conceded my HD 14 degree. I am now investigating my options.”

No one was injured in the drive-by shootings, and elected leaders on both sides of the aisle have condemned such violence, saying it has no place in the political process.

Police said Pena had previously shown up uninvited at the homes of two elected officials with what he said were documents showing he had won his race. There was no evidence of widespread voter fraud, or any irregularities involving enough votes to change a result, in New Mexico in 2020 or 2022.

The criminal complaint says Peña hired a father and son with criminal histories of their own, as well as two brothers whom authorities have yet to identify. Albuquerque police said they expect to make more arrests.

According to the complaint, a witness told investigators that one of the men told the shooters to aim above the windows of the houses to avoid injuring anyone inside.

The witness said Peña wanted them to shoot lower and that his insistence that the men be more aggressive made the other participants uncomfortable.

Peña is accused of participating in the final shooting, the one that targeted the home of state Sen. Linda López. The witness said Peña’s gun jammed and did not fire correctly, but one of the other men fired multiple times with a Glock pistol toward the house, where Lopez’s daughter was sleeping.

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