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New DA Wants To Drop Enhancements Against Alleged Cop-Killer To Reduce Sentence

Los Angeles, CA – Newly-elected Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon’s office has confirmed it has asked the court to drop all gun enhancement and special circumstances of multiple murders against an accused cop-killer in order to make sure the alleged gunman will still have a shot at parole in the future.

Rhett Nelson has been accused of fatally shooting off-duty Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Gilbert Solano in the back of the head while he was waiting for his order at a Jack in the Box restaurant in June of 2019, KTTV reported.

Approximately one hour before Deputy Solano’s assassination, Nelson allegedly murdered 31-year-old Dmitry Koltsov in a separate attack, according to police.

Investigators honed in on Nelson after they received a phone call from his father in Utah, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Bradley Nelson told Long Beach police that his son called him and spoke of “committing murder in Southern California,” and referenced having killed two people.

Police were able to trace the number the accused gunman called from to a local church, and arrested Nelson after he tried to flee the area in a vehicle, police said at the time.

Nelson was subsequently charged with one count of attempted murder, two counts of murder, and multiple counts of second-degree robbery, KTTV reported.

If convicted of the charges against him, as well as the gun enhancement and special circumstances of multiple murders, Nelson could spend life in prison.

But Gascon, whose campaign was heavily funded by liberal billionaire George Soros, wants to make sure the accused killer doesn’t run the risk of serving a life sentence, the Washington Examiner reported.

The effort to dismiss the gun enhancements and special circumstances allegations against Nelson are part of Gascon’s reforms agenda, according to KTTV.

If the judge signs off on the dismissal requests and Nelson is convicted of the remaining charges against him, he could be eligible for parole in the future.

Gascon’s transition team said that is exactly the outcome the newly-elected prosecutor is hoping for.

“The defendant is facing a sentence of 40 years to life in prison, but there is no sentence that can undo the harm caused in this case,” the team told KTTV in a statement.

“There is a possibility that decades from now, the parole board could determine he’s been rehabilitated,” Gascon’s office reasoned. “Such a determination, many years from now, would ultimately be a reflection of a system and the public alike weighing their continued interest in incarcerating a man who no longer poses a threat to society at an extraordinary taxpayer cost.”

“Eliminating that remote possibility today may not be in the public’s interest decades from now,” the prosecutor’s office argued.

Gascon’s office also claimed that “eliminating excessive sentences enhances safety,” according to the Washington Examiner.

Deputy Solano’s sister, Christina Solano, said Gascon didn’t even bother to speak with her prior to issuing his “disgusting” request to the court, KTTV reported.

“He’s never come to me, never talked to me about my family, my brother. He should be there for us, not these crazy people in jail,” she said. “It’s disgusting, and he’s disgusting.”

Christina Solano said the news her brother’s alleged killer could walk out of prison someday left her “completely in shock.”

“My heart just dropped. I couldn’t believe it,” she told KTTV. “[Gascon] should be there for the families. We are the victims here, not this person who shot him. I don’t understand what his purpose is to let these murderers out of jail. I don’t get it. He’s like the Devil. I don’t understand it.”

A judge will decide whether or not to sign off on Gascon’s dismissal requests during a pretrial hearing scheduled for Jan. 11, 2021, KTTV reported.

Gascon has also announced a slew of other reforms, including reexamining officer-involved shootings, eliminating the state’s “three strikes law,” ending the death penalty and cash bail, and to resentencing tens of thousands of convicts, according to the Washington Examiner.

The newly-elected prosecutor said he will also decline to prosecute certain misdemeanor cases, including resisting arrest, disturbing the peace, drug possession, prostitution, and loitering.

“He’s running a social experiment that is dangerous for all of us because his whole goal is to release all these criminals out there in the street, and somehow they’re magically going to behave. And that simply isn’t going to happen,” said attorney Samuel Dordulian, who is representing several families of crime victims, according to KABC.

Deputy Solano was murdered at approximately 5:45 p.m. on June 10, 2019, as he was waiting for his food to be ready at the Jack in the Box restaurant on Valley Boulevard in Alhambra, ABC News reported.

The 13-year veteran-of-the-force was wearing street clothes when he was shot, and wasn’t displaying a holster, badge, or anything else to indicate he was a law enforcement officer, said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LACSD) Captain Kent Wegener, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said that it appeared that another customer inside the restaurant warned the deputy that he was being followed, KABC reported.

Deputy Solano was shot when he turned to confront the attacker.

“Knowing what transpired, knowing that Deputy Solano did what we can expect every deputy to do – he confronted a threat, not knowing what it was,” Sheriff Villanueva continued. “In a split second he lost his life.”

The gunman fled the scene after shooting the deputy, and a neighborhood security camera captured video of him changing his clothes nearby a short while later, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Authorities quickly circulated pictures of the suspect taken from cameras inside and outside the restaurant, as well as a shot of the white Kia SUV he was driving when he fled.

“There doesn’t appear to be an overt motive,” Capt. Wegener said shortly after the attack. “There is no audio to the video, so we don’t know if there were words exchanged.”

He warned that anyone who aided or hid the suspect could be charged.

“It’s time to turn him in,” Capt. Wegener said. “You don’t want to be associated with this man, and the sheriff’s department is going to spare no resources to locate this suspect.”

Investigators tracked Nelson down and placed him under arrest after they received a tip from the accused killer’s father.

Bradley Nelson said that his son, who has a history of opiate abuse, left home in late May of 2019 without his laptop or any of his clothing.

They tried to contact Nelson on his cell phone after he left, but it was either dead or off, Bradley Nelson explained.

“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,” Bradley Nelson said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Deputy Solano, 50, initially joined LACSD in 1999, but left to take a position with the Alhambra Fire Department one year later, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In 2006, Deputy Solano returned to LACSD, and was assigned to the custody division.

“He definitely was a kindhearted, generous person,” Sheriff Villanueva said.

Deputy Solano’s son, Matthew, thanked the community for their prayers and support during a press conference after his father’s murder, KABC reported.

“He was a really good dad,” Matthew said. “I just want to thank all the law enforcement agencies that have been part of this. Thank you to everyone who had him in their prayers. Continue to pray for him and my family, please.”

The veteran deputy’s stepdaughter, Jessica, asked that the community keep his memory alive.

“He has been in my life for over 11 years,” the 20-year-old college student said. “All I ask is just don’t forget about him. He was a hard-working man. And was loved by many. He would want us to continue his legacy and never forget him.”

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Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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