A Utah man arrested on suspicion of shooting and critically wounding an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy Monday afternoon in Alhambra allegedly phoned his father from a church in Long Beach saying he murdered someone in Southern California.
Detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau arrested 30-year-old Rhett McKenzie Nelson in Long Beach shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Gravely wounded Deputy Joseph Gilbert Solano, 50, meanwhile, was reported to be on life support.
Solano, described as a generous, devoted family man, had taken his mother’s car to the JIffy Lube shop next to the Jack in the Box in Alhambra Monday afternoon and stopped at the fast food restaurant to eat.
LASD Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who was pulled away from a town hall meeting in the Santa Clarita Valley Monday night as a result of the shooting, updated reporters Tuesday afternoon on the arrest, and shared details of the incident.
“Deputy Solano was shot in the head and is currently in grave condition at the hospital,” Villanueva told reporters in a live online broadcast of a news conference held downtown.
“We are praying for his recovery,” Villanueva said.
During the same news conference, Police Chief Michel Moore of the Los Angeles Police Department told reporters that McKenzie is believed responsible for shooting and killing a man in downtown Los Angeles.
About 4:50 p.m. Monday, a man in a car drove up to a man standing on the 1900 block of 7th Street.
“The driver had a brief exchange with our victim,” Moore said. “Gunfire erupted and our victim sustained one gunshot wound and died at the scene.”
Moore said LAPD detectives connected the driver of the car on 7th Street to the shooting of the deputy in the fast-food restaurant based on the suspect’s description, his clothing and the vehicle description.
Capt. Kent Wegener, of the LASD’s Homicide Bureau, described how the suspect was taken into custody.
About 10 a.m. Tuesday, the suspect went into a church in Long Beach where he allegedly phoned his father in Utah, he said.
“During the phone call, he referred to committing murder in Southern California. The father called the Long Beach Police Department to report what his son had told him,” he said.
Long Beach police officers did a “reverse directory” search on the phone call made from Long Beach and, once they had an address, responded to that church.
Shortly after arriving there, the suspect was seen driving from the church. However, they recognized the white 2012 Kia Sorento suspected in the shooting, Wegener said.
Long Beach police carried out a felony stop and detained the suspect without incident.
Homicide detectives, who were then notified, went to Long Beach, picked up the suspect and drove him to an undisclosed location to be interviewed.
While Villanueva was updating reporters on the arrest, he said detectives were in the process of interviewing the suspected gunman.
During the investigation, detectives learned that the suspect had committed other crimes since arriving in Southern California early this month.
Detectives said they recovered a revolver from the suspect’s car.
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