A Utah man suspected in the killing of an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy as he waited for his meal at a Jack in the Box restaurant in Alhambra earlier this week has been charged with two counts of murder and other charges, officials announced Thursday.
Rhett Mckenzie Nelson, 30, was taken into custody in Long Beach a day after the shooting and is being held without bail, county inmate records show.
He faces two counts each of murder in connection with the shooting of the deputy, as well as another man in downtown L.A., second-degree robbery and one count of attempted murder, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
The charges also include special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder by means of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle as well as allegations of using a handgun in the commission of the crimes.
Nelson allegedly walked up behind 50-year-old Joseph Gilbert Solano on Monday as the off-duty deputy was standing at the counter of a Jack in the Box and shot him in the head.
Solano, a 13-year-veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, was hospitalized for three days in critical condition before being taken off life support Wednesday.
Investigators believe Solano, who was not in uniform at the time of the shooting, may have been the victim of a random attack.
Nelson is also suspected in a series of crimes before and after the deadly Alhambra shooting, including the killing of a 30-year-old man who was gunned down in downtown Los Angeles about an hour prior to the attack on Solano.
The L.A. County coroner's office identified the victim as Dmitry Alekseyevich Kolstov of Los Angeles. The DA's office gave his name as Dmitry Koltsov, and the coroner's office later updated its records to match that spelling.
Hours after allegedly shooting Solano, Nelson is accused of robbing a Shell gas station and a 7-Eleven in Long Beach, according to the DA's office.
Police in San Diego County are investigating whether Nelson is responsible for five armed robberies that took place at convenience stores over the weekend.
A clerk at one of the stores said Nelson mentioned something about needing the money for his sister but he couldn’t make out why.
Before leaving Utah, Nelson told family members he wanted to "make it on his own or die," St. George Police Department Capt. Mike Giles said.
He was reported missing last month.
Family members were concerned about possible drug and mental health problems, but did not think Nelson was dangerous.
On Wednesday, Solano’s family, friends and members of the Sheriff’s Department took part in a procession as the deputy’s body was moved from County-USC Medical Center in Boyle Heights.
Solano’s son spoke about his dad. “We lost him. He was a really good dad,” Mathew Solano said through his tears.
The deputy's stepdaughter, Jessica Jimenez, urged the crowd not to forget him.
“Not only did I lose a father figure, but a best friend," Jimenez said. “All I ask is just don’t forget about him. He was a hard-working man and was loved by many.”
Solano's longtime girlfriend, Julianna Loza, thanked the hospital staff for trying to save the deputy's life after the "senseless" shooting.
“Although the outcome was not what we wished it to be, we have solace knowing that he’s in a better place now,” Loza said.
Nelson faces a maximum sentence of death or life in prison without the possibility of parole, the DA's office said. He appeared in court for the first time Thursday, but his arraignment was continued to July 22.
KTLA's Jennifer Thang contributed to this story.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story included only the incorrect original spelling of victim Dmitry Koltsov's name as provided by the coroner's office. The post has been updated to reflect the correct spelling as provided by the DA's office and as seen in updated coroner's records.