ALHAMBRA (CBSLA) — A suspect was taken into custody Tuesday morning in Long Beach in the shooting of an off-duty Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy at a Jack in the Box in Alhambra Monday evening.

Authorities believe the same man may also be responsible for a killing in downtown Los Angeles which occurred about one hour prior to the deputy’s shooting.

Rhett Nelson. (LASD)

At a press conference Tuesday, Sheriff Alex Villanueva identified the wounded deputy as 50-year-old Joe Solano. Villanueva said Solano remains in grave condition “and on life support.”

At 10:40 a.m. Tuesday, Long Beach police in the 2400 block of Granada Avenue spotted a Kia Sorrento SUV which matched the description of the getaway vehicle used by the suspect in the Alhambra shooting. Officers detained the driver, 30-year-old Rhett McKenzie Nelson of Saint George, Utah, the sheriff’s department reports.

A gun was also recovered which matched a description of that used in the crime. Nelson was later arrested on attempted murder charges. He is being held on $2 million bail.

Solano, off-duty and in civilian clothes, was ordering food shortly before 6 p.m. Monday at a Jack in the Box at 2531 W Valley Blvd. when a man walked up behind him brandishing a handgun and shot him in the back of the head, according to the sheriff’s department. He then fled in an SUV.

Deputy Joe Solano in an undated photo. (LASD)

“I was actually sitting down in the break room when all I heard was a loud bang,” said Jesus Guzman, who works at Jack in the Box and called 911.

Guzman thought the sound was coming from the kitchen, but then he saw customers running out of the store, and a gunshot victim on the ground.

“I go lean over and I see, I think he got shot in the head, because there was a hole in his head,” Guzman recalled.

“I asked the guy like, ‘oh sir, can you hear me, can you move?’ As soon as I said that, I see his stomach moving like he was breathing.”

Just minutes prior to the shooting, Solano had dropped his mother’s vehicle off at a Jiffy Lube. He was getting food at the Jack in the Box next door while he was waiting for the car to be serviced.

Surveillance photos of the suspect. (LASD)

“Two of my employees, they heard all the commotion, and a guy comes running out to the shop yelling for help,” Jiffy Lube employee Lazaro Villela said.

Solano, a 13-year LASD veteran, was rushed to Los Angeles County USC Medical Center.

Villanueva confirmed investigators are also looking into whether Nelson was responsible for a murder which took place in downtown L.A. at 4:50 p.m. Monday, when a man in his 30s was shot and killed in a drive-by while standing outside a building in the 1900 block of East 7th Place. He was pronounced dead at the scene. He has not yet been identified. The suspect description in that shooting matches Nelson.

There was no word on a motive in either shooting.


Nelson, who is described as a runaway, called his father from a church in Long Beach and said he shot two people, investigators told CBS2. Nelson may be suffering from schizophrenic tendencies, sources said.

At the time of the deputy’s shooting, the suspect was wearing a burgundy short-sleeved button down shirt, slim blue jeans, a light fedora hat and sunglasses. Following it, he changed clothes, putting on a black t-shirt and dark pants.

He fled in a white Kia Sorrento SUV with paper plates.

A $100,000 reward was offered earlier in the day for information leading to an arrest. The Board of Supervisors approved a $50,000 reward in conjunction with another $50,000 from the Association for L.A. Deputy Sheriffs.

Anyone with information on the case should call LASD at (323) 890-5500.

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