ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (NewsNation) — A former New Mexico state House candidate was arrested in a string of shootings that may have targeted Democratic officials in Albuquerque, New Mexico, according to police.
The shootings began Dec. 4, when eight rounds were fired at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Adriann Barboa. Days later, state Rep. Javier Martinez’s home was targeted, followed by a Dec. 11 shooting at the home of Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley. More than a dozen rounds were fired at her home, police said.
The final related shooting, targeting state Sen. Linda Lopez’s home, unfolded in the midnight hour of Jan. 3. Police said more than a dozen shots were fired and Lopez said three of the bullets passed through her 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom.
“Peña, an unsuccessful legislative candidate in the 2022 election, is accused of conspiring with, and paying four other men to shoot at the homes of 2 county commissioners and 2 state legislators,” Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina tweeted on Monday.
According to NewsNation affiliate KRQE, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller called the attacks “dangerous” to the victims and democracy. When reacting to the case, Keller said it was “about a right-wing radical” and “election denier.”
Pena, a felon whose criminal past had been a controversial issue during last year’s campaign, repeatedly made baseless claims that the election was “rigged” against him as he posed with “Trump 2024” flags and a “Make America Great Again” hoodie.
Pena spent nine years behind bars after his arrest in April 2007 for stealing electronics and other goods from several retail stores as part of what authorities described then as a burglary crew. He was released from prison in March 2016, and had his voting rights restored after completing five years probation in April 2021, corrections officials said.
Peña ran and lost the race for House District 14 in the November 2022 election. He lost, getting just 26% of the vote.
Pena then showed up uninvited at the elected officials’ homes with what he claimed were documents proving he had won his race, police said. There was no evidence of widespread voter fraud, or any irregularity involving enough votes to change a result, in New Mexico in 2020 or 2022.
KRQE reported that during a SWAT situation Monday afternoon near downtown Albuquerque, APD arrested Peña.
Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina described Pena as the “mastermind” of an apparently politically motivated conspiracy leading to shootings at the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators between early December and early January.
No one was injured, but in one case bullets passed through the bedroom of a state senator’s 10-year-old daughter.
Police said evidence in the case included firearms, cell phone and electronic records, witnesses and surveillance video.
He was being held pending an initial court appearance Wednesday on charges including multiple counts of shooting at a home and shooting from a motor vehicle, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, conspiracy and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Police said additional arrests and charges are expected but declined to elaborate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.