Utah man arrested in shooting of off-duty LA deputy

By John Rogers Associated Press

ALHAMBRA, Calif. — A Utah man was being held Tuesday on suspicion of shooting an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy at a fast-food restaurant, and authorities said he may have killed another man an hour earlier in apparently random attacks.

Rhett Nelson, 30, of St. George, Utah, was arrested by Long Beach police after he went into a church Tuesday morning and called his father back home, sheriff's Homicide Bureau Capt. Kent Wegener said.

"In that call, he referred to committing a murder in Southern California," Wegener said.

The father called police, who stopped Nelson in his car a short time later, he said.

Nelson is suspected of walking into a Jack in the Box restaurant in the eastern Los Angeles suburb of Alhambra on Monday night and shooting Deputy Joseph Gilbert Solano in the head.

Solano, 50, was in grave condition and on life support, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at an afternoon news conference.

"This is the part of this job that I don't relish," Villanueva said. "I always dreaded this would happen. It happened way too soon."

Solano, who was waiting for a food order at the counter, "was not wearing anything that would identify him as a law enforcement officer" and the attack appears to be random, Wegener said.

The weapon believed to have been used in the shooting was found in Nelson's car, Wegener said.

Solano's description and car also match those of a man who shot to death a 30-year-old man less than an hour earlier in Los Angeles, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said.

The man was standing in the just south of downtown when a car pulled up, someone inside said something and then opened fire, Moore said.

Investigators are looking into reports that Nelson may have been involved in other crimes since arriving in Southern California last week, authorities said. They said they didn't know if Nelson had obtained an attorney or why he had recently come to Southern California.

Solano joined the sheriff's department in 1999, left in 2000, worked at the Alhambra Fire Department for a year and was rehired by the sheriff's department in 2006. He was most recently assigned to the custody division, Villanueva said.