Police say that a 30-year-old Utah man has been arrested in what appeared to be a random shooting in Alhambra, California that has left an off-duty sheriff’s deputy fighting for his life.
The suspect is Rhett Nelson of St. George, Utah. Police say he’s also suspected in the fatal shooting of another man in central Los Angeles on Monday evening.
The shooting of 50-year-old Deputy Joseph Solano happened late Monday night. Solano was off-duty and in civilian clothes as he stopped at the Jack in the Box in Alhambra while getting an oil change for his sick mother’s car at a nearby Jiffy Lube.
Police say he was getting his food when Nelson walked up from behind and shot him in the head. He’s now listed in grave condition and is on life support, according to Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
Police say there appears to be no connection between Nelson and Solano and no obvious motive.
Solano was described as a dedicated family man, who lost his father just a few months ago. He’s now the sole provider and caregiver for his mother.
“He definitely is a kindhearted, generous person,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. “Always willing to help others before himself. Has a bright smile, very positive individual. Everyone likes working with him, so we’re all rooting for him to make a recovery.”
Police say that on Tuesday morning, Nelson stopped at a church in Long Beach and called his father to say he had committed murder in Southern California.
They say his father called authorities in Long Beach, who were able to trace the number he gave them to the church.
Police found Nelson driving a short distance from the church around 10:40 a.m. Tuesday in the 2400 block of Granada Avenue in Long Beach. They pulled him over and later connected him to the shooting and placed him under arrest.
Up until Tuesday, Nelson had been listed as a missing person out of Utah. According to a social media posting, family members said he has a history of opioid use and had been missing since May 27.
According to Los Angeles Police chief Michel Moore, investigators are also connecting Nelson to the fatal shooting of a person in the 1900 block of 7th Street in central Los Angeles.
In that shooting, they say a car drove up to someone standing on the street, had a brief exchange with the victim and then opened fire, killing the person and taking off.
The suspect, clothing and vehicle description match those in the Alhambra shooting, according to police.
After the Alhambra shooting, there was a massive manhunt for the suspect seen in surveillance footage shooting the deputy at the restaurant.