Fugitive LAPD Officer Faces Court Hearing on Murder Charge

Henry Solis was arrested in Mexico two months after the fatal shooting of a man outside a bar

More than 60 people packed a courtroom Wednesday for a hearing that will determine whether there is enough evidence to order a former Los Angeles police officer to stand trial for the shooting death of a man after a fistfight in a Pomona bar last year.

Henry Solis, 28, is accused of fleeing to Mexico after the March 13 killing of Salome Rodriguez Jr., 23.

"It's important for us to be here so that they know he has family," Lidia Rodriguez, mother of the victim, said. "He has a mom and a dad to be at his side even if he is not here."

Police said Solis and Rodriguez got into a fight in a bar, and the confrontation spilled into the street, ending in gunfire. Solis is charged with one count each of murder and assault with a firearm, along with an allegation that he personally discharged a handgun.

The courtroom was filled to capacity at Wednesday's hearing and included the victim's parents. Witnesses included a nightclub worker who was a friend of Rodriguez.

The medical examiner, Ogbonna Chinwah, who performed the autopsy on Rodriguez testified Wednesday. 

When asked by the defense if Rodriguez's body showed evidence that he had been in a fist fight, he said no.

Two women, who were to remain unidentified per court request, testified that they had been with Rodriguez the night he was killed.

They recalled watching him leave the nightclub with a friend, and did not know until several hours later that he had died.

Rodriguez's parents, who called their son "Junior," said it was an incredibly hard day in court.

"I don't know why but I don't hate this man if he killed Junior," Lidia, the victim's mother, said through tears. "That's why I ask Junior and God: 'Could I forgive this person in time?'"

Solis was off-duty and a probationary officer in the LAPD's Devonshire Division in the San Fernando Valley at the time of the crime. He was fired by the department soon after becoming the subject of an extensive manhunt.

His father, Victor, drove Solis out of state and later told federal authorities that he had simply dropped his son off at a Texas bus stop. The pair, however, were caught on surveillance video walking across the Mexico border.

Solis was arrested May 26 by Mexican authorities in the border city of Juarez and deported to the United States. He had been staying with relatives in the Juarez area before his arrest, FBI officials said. Special Agent Scott Garriola said Solis was "moved from one house to another" to help him avoid capture.

Victor Solis, 53, was convicted by a federal jury in El Paso of lying to the FBI about helping his son escape. He was sentenced to three years probation and a $1,000 fine.

The trial was set to continue Thursday, and as many as 15 witnesses were expected to be called. 

Lolita Lopez contributed to this article. 

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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