St. George man arrested after reportedly shooting LA deputy in the head; suspect’s family is ‘saddened beyond words’

Southern Utah

ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) – Rhett Nelson, 30, St. George, Utah, was arrested Tuesday and remains in custody in Los Angeles in connection with the shooting of an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy. 

Nelson is suspected of shooting Deputy Joseph Gilbert Solano, who was waiting for his food at a Jack in the Box in Alhambra, California, at point blank range in the head.

The sheriff’s department announced Solano died Wednesday.

Nelson was located in the car and taken into custody after a traffic stop, police said.

Police said Nelson is believed to have shot and killed another man an hour before shooting Solano. 

Nelson contacted his father who lives in St. George, Utah, after the shooting, and his father immediately notified police and facilitated the arrest, according to police. 

ABC 4 News arrived at the Nelson family residence in St. George, where the suspect’s sister said her family isn’t yet ready to talk about the incident in person. 

In a statement from the suspect’s father Dr. Bradley Nelson, he said: 

“My wife Jean and I, along with our family, are saddened beyond words to hear of the shooting of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Solano, and to learn that our son Rhett is being held in connection with this horrifying and senseless attack. Rhett has been missing since May 26, 2019, leading us to file a missing person’s report with authorities. We have spent much time and effort in an attempt to help Rhett and bring him home safely, and we have been distraught and worried since his disappearance. We are cooperating fully with authorities and will provide them with all information they request concerning Rhett and his struggles. We ask that people please pray for Deputy Solano and his family.” 

St. George police said Nelson’s family reported him missing last month, telling authorities he let his home after making comments about dying or wanting to make it on his own. 

“They still didn’t believe that he was a threat to himself or anyone else,” said St. George Police Capt. Mike Giles, adding that the family believed he left under “odd circumstances.” 

In a post on Facebook, the suspect’s father said his son had a history of opiate abuse and had been clean for six months.

Giles added that police received a report that Nelson left in a vehicle and had a firearm that relatives believed was for self-defense. 

On June 5th, Nelson’s family members told police he had borrowed someone’s phone to contact them while he was in California and they had concerns of the suspect’s mental health, according to Giles. At that point, Nelson was removed from the national crime information computer, also known as NCIC, where law enforcement lists missing persons.

 Nelson’s bail is set at $2 million. 

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