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New Mexico GOP leaders try to distance themselves from suspect in shootings

Failed state House candidate Solomon Pena was arrested Monday in connection with a string of shootings at the home of Democratic officials.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Republican legislators scrambled Wednesday to distance themselves from shooting suspect and failed GOP candidate Solomon Pena.

Pena, who lost his race for the New Mexico state House, was arrested Monday in connection with a string of shootings at the homes of state and local Democratic leaders, police said.

Pena is accused of conspiring with and paying four men to carry out shootings at the Albuquerque-area homes of two Bernalillo County commissioners and two state legislators, Albuquerque police said.

No one was hurt.

Pena made his first court appearance Wednesday and was ordered held without bail by Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court Judge Jill Martinez. Assistant District Attorney Keith Rinaldi disclosed that the state will request that Pena be detained before and throughout any trial.

"This was a heinous and reprehensible act regardless of political affiliation. This individual was a felon in possession of a gun who conspired to terrorize and harm New Mexico families,” state Senate Republican leader Greg Baca said in a statement. “He and his co-conspirators deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Pena, an avowed supporter of President Donald Trump who openly denied the results of the November election, claimed his own defeat was the result of election fraud.

He lost in a landslide to incumbent Democrat Miguel P. Garcia by 5,679 to 2,033, or 74% to 26%. There is no evidence to support his fraud claims, despite his adamance on Twitter and in other statements.

On Wednesday, New Mexico Republican leaders insisted they are opposed to "violence in any form."

"This is yet another example of a convicted felon unlawfully gaining access to firearms, which they are barred from owning or possessing, and using the weapon in a manner that causes public harm,” state Republican House leader Ryan Lane said in a statement Wednesday.

“New Mexico House Republicans condemn violence in any form and are grateful no one was injured.”

Pena served nine years in prison for stealing electronics and other goods from stores and lost his right to vote for many years. He was released in 2016 and was eligible for reinstatement of his voting rights in 2021.

Deon J. Hampton reported from Albuquerque and David K. Li from New York City.