Deputy Who Was Killed in Restaurant Shooting Is Remembered as Kind and Courageous

Joseph Gilbert Solano was off duty and not in uniform when he was shot at the counter of an Alhambra Jack in the Box

What to Know

  • Deputy Joseph Solano was fatally shot inside an Alhambra fast food restaurant
  • Funeral services for the 50-year-old deputy are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in downtown Los Angeles
  • A 30-year-old man was arrested in the apparently unprovoked attack

Hundreds of law enforcement officers were among the mourners who gathered Monday in downtown Los Angeles to remember a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy who was shot and killed as he waited at the counter of a fast food restaurant. 

Memorial services for sheriff's Deputy Joseph Solano, who was shot two weeks ago in the apparently unprovoked attack inside an Alhambra Jack in the Box restaurant, were Monday at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels. The seemingly random shooting was one in a series of crimes, including another fatal shooting, that prosecutors said were carried out June 15 by the same 30-year-old Utah man.

Family, friends and members of the law enforcement community attended the solemn service, which included speakers who remembered Solano as a loving person who accepted the risks that came with his job because it meant he could serve his community.

"My father had so much life ahead of him, and for it to be taken away in the blink of an eye is unjustifiably heart breaking," said son Matthew Solano. 

Burial will take place in a private ceremony at Calvary Cemetery immediately following the church services.

Colleagues remembered Solano, who was born in Glendale, as possessing a rare blend of kindness and courage. 

"He was full of life, loved his family and everyone around him," said Capt. Tania Plunkett.

Solano, who was off-duty and not in uniform when he was shot, is survived by his son, mother, sister and long-time partner. Plunkett, Villanueva and Solano's son and partner spoke Monday at the service.

Partner Julianna Loza described him as one-of-a-kind, someone who took care of others before taking care of himself. The couple had just bought a house together and spent time together on home improvement projects.

"He always had a way of comforting me and making sure I would be all right," she said. "I will hold you in my heart forever, and I will cherish all the memories that we shared."

Sheriff Alex Villanueva said there was no indication the shooter knew that Solano -- who was off-duty and not in uniform -- was a sheriff's deputy.

"The deputy was alerted in the restaurant that someone was following him, and that's when he turned to confront (the person), and that's when the shooting happened," Villanueva said. "That much we do know. But the motive, the rationale from the suspect -- that's the million-dollar question."

A Utah man was arrested in Long Beach the next day in connection with the deputy's killing. Rhett McKenzie Nelson, 30, was charged June 13 with Solano's death and two counts of robbery for allegedly carrying out heists at a 7-Eleven store and a Shell gas station, both in Long Beach, hours after the killings.

Nelson is also accused of killing 31-year-old Dmitry Alekseyevich Kolstov -- about an hour before Solano's killing -- in the 1900 block of East Seventh Place, between Santa Fe Avenue and Alameda Street, in downtown Los Angeles. Kolstov was skateboarding with friends in downtown Los Angeles when a man drove up and shot him in the head without provocation, police said.

After shooting Kolstov, Nelson drove several miles east to Alhambra and shot Solano while the off-duty deputy waited in line at a Jack in the Box restaurant, investigators said.

Nelson was jailed without bail while awaiting arraignment July 22 at the downtown Los Angeles courthouse. 

The Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the union representing deputies, is collecting donations on behalf of Solano's family. Donations can be made to the ALADS CARES program at 2 Cupania Circle, Monterey Park, CA, 91755.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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