A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy shot in an off-duty attack was remembered Monday as an inspiration to his family and colleagues for his positive attitude and devotion to public service.
Mourners including hundreds of law enforcement members packed the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels for the funeral of Deputy Joseph Solano.
A Utah man, Rhett Nelson, has been charged with two counts of murder in the ambush deaths just an hour apart of Solano and Dmitry Koltsov, a renowned Russian snowboarder. Nelson, who is being held without bail, has yet to enter a plea and is due back in court on July 22. His attorney, Jenn Bartick, has declined to comment. Police haven’t identified a motive for the seemingly random attacks June 10.
“Joseph was a one of a kind man who took care of others before himself,” Solano’s longtime girlfriend Julianna Loza said during her eulogy. The couple had just purchased their dream house and Solano spent his free time compiling notes for his next home improvement project, she said.
Despite his dangerous job, Solano inspired Loza by remaining upbeat and focusing on the positive things in his life, like his mother, son and stepdaughter, she said.
“He always had a way of comforting me and reassuring me that everything was going to be all right,” Loza said.
Sheriff’s Captain Tania Plunkett said Solano kept his fellow deputies smiling with his one-liners and confident demeanor, earning him the nickname J.C. — or Joe Cool.
“He was full of life, he loved his family and everyone around him,” Plunkett said.
Kolstov, 31, competed for years at Russian snowboarding championship meets and international competitions, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
He was skateboarding with friends in downtown Los Angeles when a man drove up and shot him in the head without provocation, police said. After shooting Kolstov, Nelson drove several miles east to suburban Alhambra and shot Solano while the off-duty deputy waited in line at a Jack in the Box restaurant, investigators said.
Authorities also suspect Nelson of committing two armed robberies in Long Beach. Separately, police in San Diego County say they suspect him in five armed convenience store robberies.
Nelson’s family has said he suffers from mental illness and an opiate addiction. His family reported him missing last month when he left their Utah home with a firearm and said he wanted to “make it on his own or die,” according to St. George, Utah, police. His family told police they did not believe he was suicidal or a danger to others at the time.
Solano, 50, died at a hospital two days after being shot.
Friends of Koltsov have been raising money to send his remains to his family in Moscow, the Times said.
Koltsov first rode a skateboard at the age of 14 and quickly became integral to Moscow’s fledgling skate scene, according to a statement provided to the Times from his sister, Marfa Koltsova. He worked with some friends to create Limited Skate Division, a do-it-yourself skate park in Moscow modeled after a similar venue in Portland, Oregon, she said.
Koltsov began competing in international snowboarding in 2006, according to the International Ski Federation. He placed third in the big air snowboarding competition at the 2010 Russian national championships. Two years later, he earned a silver medal during a halfpipe competition in Switzerland, according to the federation.
He moved to Southern California in 2015 hoping to stay involved in the skate and snowboarding scenes without the pressures of trying to compete on a world stage, friends said. Since arriving, Koltsov had become something of an ambassador to other well-known Russian skaters and snowboarders visiting the area, said Kalil Hammouri, who lived with Koltsov for several years.
“He was almost like an unofficial coach to all the Russian competitive skateboarders. They would come here for competitions and he would house them, feed them and make sure they got where they needed to go,” said Hammouri, 28.