Utah man ar­rested in shoot­ing of L.A. off-duty deputy

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Maya Lau, Han­nah Fry, Matt Stiles and James Queally

LOS ANGELES — A Utah man has been ar­rested in con­nec­tion with the shoot­ing of a Los Angeles County sher­iff’s deputy Mon­day night, and may have been in­volved in a killing less than an hour ear­lier in Los Angeles, of­fi­cials said Tues­day.

Rhett Nel­son, 30, of St. Ge­orge, Utah, was de­tained in Long Beach shortly af­ter he called his fa­ther from a church and re­ferred to “com­mit­ting mur­der,” ac­cord­ing to Los Angeles County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment homi­cide Capt. Kent We­gener.

Nel­son’s fa­ther im­me­di­ately called Long Beach po­lice, who con­ducted a “re­verse lookup” of the phone num­ber Nel­son called from, We­gener said. Of­fi­cers were then dis­patched to the church and spot­ted Nel­son’s ve­hi­cle driv­ing away. The car matched the de­scrip­tion of the ve­hi­cle linked to the at­tack on the deputy the night be­fore, au­thor­i­ties said.

The car came to a stop in a drive­way on Granada Av­enue, and Nel­son was taken into cus­tody with­out in­ci­dent, po­lice said.

Nel­son’s ar­rest came less than a day af­ter he al­legedly walked into a Jack in the Box restau­rant in Alhambra and shot Deputy Joseph Solano, a 13-year-vet­eran of the L.A. Sher­iff’s De­part­ment. Solano was listed in “grave con­di­tion” and re­mained on life sup­port at L.A. County-USC Med­i­cal Cen­ter on Tues­day af­ter­noon, Sher­iff Alex Vil­lanueva said.

“This is the part of this job that I don’t rel­ish,” he said. “I al­ways dreaded this day would hap­pen and it hap­pened way too soon.”

Solano, 50, was off-duty and wait­ing for his meal at the Jack in the Box on Val­ley Boule­vard around 5:45 p.m. Mon­day when he was shot once in the head. Vil­lanueva said Solano had driven his mother’s car to a nearby Jiffy Lube for main­te­nance just mo­ments be­fore the shoot­ing.

“He def­i­nitely was a kind­hearted, gen­er­ous, per­son ... we’re all root­ing for him to make a re­cov­ery,” the sher­iff said.

A mo­tive for the shoot­ing re­mains un­known. Nel­son did not at­tempt to rob the deputy or any­one else in the restau­rant, ac­cord­ing to Lt. Der­rick Al­fred, who is su­per­vis­ing the team of homi­cide de­tec­tives in­ves­ti­gat­ing the shoot­ing.

“He kind of lin­gered in the restau­rant for a lit­tle while be­fore de­cid­ing to go up and shoot the deputy,” Al­fred said.

Solano was wear­ing plain clothes with no hol­ster, badge or any­thing to sig­nify he was a law en­force­ment of­fi­cer at the time of the at­tack, in­ves­ti­ga­tors said.

Au­thor­i­ties re­leased these pho­tos of the man they sus­pect shot an off-duty sher­iff’s deputy on Mon­day.

Los Angeles Po­lice Chief Michel Moore said that Nel­son may be linked to a killing that took place around 4:50 p.m. Mon­day in the 1900 block of Sev­enth Place, less than an hour be­fore Solano was shot.

Moore said a man was stand­ing in front of that lo­ca­tion when a per­son in a ve­hi­cle drove up and fired a weapon, killing the man with at least one round. Moore said the de­scrip­tion of the ve­hi­cle, along with the gun­man’s cloth­ing, led de­tec­tives to believe that Nel­son may be re­spon­si­ble for that homi­cide.

Moore said he could not con­firm whether the gun used in that shoot­ing matched the re­volver later found in Nel­son’s ve­hi­cle. That weapon did match the de­scrip­tion of the weapon used in the at­tack on Solano, in­ves­ti­ga­tors said.

Vil­lanueva said there is ev­i­dence that Nel­son called his fa­ther and ref­er­enced killing two peo­ple.

Nel­son came to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia in the first week of June, and had been re­ported miss­ing from Utah, We­gener said. Calls to po­lice in St. Ge­orge, Utah, were not im­me­di­ately re­turned.

Court records show Nel­son had been ar­rested for drug of­fenses mul­ti­ple times in Utah be­tween 2011 and 2014.

L.A. COUNTY SHER­IFF’S DE­PART­MENT

L.A. County Sher­iff’s Deputy Joseph Gil­bert Solano was off duty when he was shot at an Alhambra Jack in the Box on Mon­day.

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