Utah man arrested in shooting of L.A. off-duty deputy
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 Deputy Joseph Gilbert Solano was off duty when he was shot at an Alhambra Jack in the Box on Monday.