Utah man charged with murdering deputy at Alhambra Jack in the Box and another man in L.A. pleads not guilty

 In blog, Crime News: Los Angeles Daily News

Utah man charged with murdering deputy at Alhambra Jack in the Box and another man in L.A. pleads not guilty

by City News Service

A Utah man accused of gunning down an off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy inside an Alhambra fast-food restaurant an hour after killing a man in downtown Los Angeles pleaded not guilty Monday to the two murders, attempted murder and robbery charges.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin Stennis ordered Rhett McKenzie Nelson, 30, to remain jailed without bail and set his next court appearance for Sept. 2.

Nelson is accused of shooting 50-year-old Deputy Joseph Gilbert Solano in the evening of June 10 after killing 31-year-old Dmitry Alekseyevich Kolstov, an accomplished skateboarder and snowboarder from Russia. He also faces two counts of robbery: Authorities say he carried out heists at a 7-Eleven store and at a Shell gas station, both in Long Beach, hours after the killings and attempting to murder a third person the same day.

Solano was at the counter of the Jack in the Box when he was shot in the head in what sheriff’s officials say they believe was a random attack. Sheriff Alex Villanueva has said there was no indication the shooter knew that Solano — who was off-duty and not in uniform — was a sheriff’s deputy.

“The deputy was alerted in the restaurant that someone was following him, and that’s when he turned to confront (the person), and that’s when the shooting happened,” Villanueva days after the shooting. “That much we do know. But the motive, the rationale from the suspect — that’s the million-dollar question.”

Kolstov was shot about an hour earlier in the 1900 block of East Seventh Place, between Santa Fe Avenue and Alameda Street.

Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore has said that shooting was carried out by a gunman in a white SUV matching the description of Nelson’s Sorento, a vehicle type also spotted at the scene of Solano’s shooting. Moore said the victim was standing when the SUV pulled up and there was some type of verbal exchange before ending the shooting.

The clerk of the Long Beach 7-Eleven, Jose Salem, told CBS2 that Nelson used a gun to rob the store. Salem said there were two customers in the store when Nelson walked in and pulled out a gun, prompting him to close the cash register.

“He said, ‘I just killed two people right now, don’t act stupid,”‘ Salem said.

Following Solano’s shooting, a region-wide manhunt began, with sheriff’s officials circulating surveillance photos of the gunman and the Kia Sorento.

Nelson walked into a Long Beach church the morning after the shooting, called his father in Utah and talked about carrying out a pair of shootings in Southern California, authorities said. His father called Long Beach police to report what his son had said. A short time later, Nelson was seen driving away from the church, and police took him into custody him without incident after he pulled a Sorento into the driveway of a home on Granada Avenue.

The hat and maroon shirt the gunman wore during the Jack in the Box shooting “were clearly visible in the rear seat of his car,” and a revolver “matching the gun used in the assault” was found inside the vehicle, sheriff’s Capt. Kent Wegener said following Nelson’s arrest.

Nelson’s family in Utah reported him missing in late May and noted he has a history of opiate abuse.

All credit goes to City News Service Originally published on https://www.dailynews.com

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