LA County sheriff’s deputy who was shot at Alhambra restaurant has died, sheriff says
A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who was shot in the head at a Jack in the Box restaurant in Alhambra on Monday has died, the county’s sheriff said Wednesday evening.
Deputy Joseph Gilbert Solano was waiting for an order at the restaurant when a man approached him and fired, striking the deputy once. Solano was rushed to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center where he was placed on life support.
Speaking outside the hospital just before 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Solano died. Grieving family members, including his son, his step-daughter and his longtime girlfriend, surrounded the sheriff as he made the announcement.
“Thank you to everyone to has had my dad in their prayers,” said Matthew Solano, the deputy’s son, through tears. “Unfortunately, we have lost him. He was a really good dad.”
Solano’s girlfriend, Julieanna Loza, said the family wanted to thank the man who called 911 from the Jack-in-the-Box immediately after he was shot. She described her boyfriend as “gentle” and “selfless.”
Solano’s final assignment for the sheriff’s department was at the same hospital where he would later die. Villanueva said the deputy died surrounded by his most recent co-workers.
The suspect in the attack, 30-year-old Rhett Nelson of St. George, Utah, was arrested Tuesday at a church in Long Beach.
There are few details of what prompted the attack, but sheriff’s officials have said that the shooting appeared to be random. Solano was off duty and not in uniform at the time of the shooting.
On Wednesday, Villanueva said Solano was alerted to the suspect, who came up behind him. When Solano turned around to face the man, that’s when the shooting occurred.
“Deputy Solano did what we expect every deputy to do: he confronted a threat, not knowing what it was,” Villanueva said. “And in a split second he lost his life.
“On a good day we can do heroic things and save lives and avoid death,” he said. “And other times something as innocent as going to fast food restaurant can be an end of the watch for our Deputy Solano.”
The sheriff said investigators were “satisfied that there were no other suspects” outstanding in the shooting.
Los Angeles County officials have still not confirmed whether Nelson is the same suspect wanted in a string of armed robberies in San Diego County.
Chief Michel Moore of the Los Angeles Police Department said Nelson was being treated as a suspect in a shooting near Skid Row about an hour before he apparently shot Deputy Solano.
Villanueva said the apparent multi-county crime spree appeared to be “an astonishing level of violence in such a short period of time.”
He said he praised the father of the suspect for calling Long Beach police after receiving a phone call from his son from inside the church where Nelson spoke to a priest before leaving. He was later arrested in the driveway of a nearby residence.
Villanueva appeared emotional as he announced Solano’s death. After speaking to the media, he turned around and hugged the deputy’s step-daughter.
The sheriff said again Wednesday there was no known connection between the deputy and the suspect. He said the suspect had no clear motive.
“The brazen and senseless nature of something like this that just makes you say, ‘Why?’” Villaneuva said. “There’s no answer to that.”
About an hour after the sheriff spoke, a short procession carried Solano’s body from the hospital to the nearby coroner’s office.