A sheriff’s deputy shot in the head as he waited for his meal at a California fast food restaurant has died from his wounds, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Gilbert Solano was struck by a single bullet on Monday around 5:45 p.m. inside a Jack in the Box in Alhambra. The off-duty officer, a 13-year veteran of the force, had just dropped off his mother’s car at the neighboring Jiffy Lube and opted to get a quick bite to eat while he waited for it to be serviced.
The 50-year-old deputy was rushed to the hospital, where he fought to survive for nearly two days before succumbing to his injuries Wednesday evening.
“I was able to see firsthand the tremendous impact Deputy Solano had on his family, friends and partners throughout the department. I shared in their grief, and struggled with the realization that in the painful days ahead, no amount of comfort could ever fill the void left in our hearts,” Villanueva said in an emotional statement.
“Deputy Solano was known as a kind-hearted and generous family man, a provider for his mother and an exemplary father to his children. We are a better department because of his selfless service. I take comfort knowing the Department is compassionately tending to the needs of the Solano family.”
Police on Tuesday arrested 30-year-old Rhett McKenzie Nelson, from St. George, Utah, in the shooting. Officers in nearby Long Beach also recovered a revolver as well as the clothes Nelson was believed to be wearing at the time of the shooting from his car.
The suspect was initially held on $2 million bail, but it was immediately changed to no bond following the deputy’s death, KABC reported.
Nelson’s family has said he suffers from mental illness and an opiate addiction, though he had been clean for six months. They contacted St. George police at the end of May, saying Nelson left their home armed with a gun “without any specific reason.” They formally reported him missing the next day.
“He made a statement to them or somehow communicated he wanted to make it on his own or die,” Capt. Mike Giles said.
He’s also a suspect in the shooting of a 30-year-old man in Los Angeles about an hour before Solano was shot and is being investigated in a series of five armed robberies of convenience stores starting on June 7.
The shooting Monday was caught on surveillance video, but there was no audio on the clip and no possible motive has been released. Villanueva said it appeared someone inside the Jack in the Box told Solano he was being followed.
When the deputy turned around, he was shot once in the head.
His son, Matthew Solano, teared up as he addressed the media Wednesday and expressed gratitude for the support his family has received so far.
“Thank you to everyone who had my dad in their prayers. Unfortunately we have lost him,” he said.
“He was a really good dad. I just want to thank all the law enforcement agencies that have been part of this. Thank you to everyone who had him in their prayers. Continue to pray for him and my family, please.”