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 Peña 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.
Police announced his arrest Monday evening. No one was hurt in the shootings.
“Peña 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 Peña 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, her home was struck with 12 bullets on Dec. 11 while she and her husband slept, police have said.
He “could have killed us,” O’Malley previously told NBC News.
Police said Peña might have been motivated by anger over his November loss. Police spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said at a news conference early Monday evening that Peña alleged his defeat was the result of election fraud.
Peña lost his state House challenge to incumbent Democrat Miguel P. Garcia by 5,679 to 2,033, or 74% to 26%.
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.
Dennis Romero, Phil Helsel and Mirna Alsharif contributed.