Ex-LAPD officer wanted in killing was lying low in Mexico

AP News
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Posted: May 27, 2015 8:52 PM
Ex-LAPD officer wanted in killing was lying low in Mexico

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A fugitive former Los Angeles police officer charged with killing a man while off-duty evaded authorities for more than two months by moving between the homes of family members in Mexico, staying mostly indoors and avoiding cellphones and social media, the FBI said Wednesday.

Henry Solis, 27, was arrested Tuesday in Ciudad Juarez in northern Mexico and deported to El Paso, Texas, where he's being held in a city jail as he awaits proceedings for extradition to California, El Paso police spokesman Darrel Petry said.

Solis was sought in the shooting death of Salome Rodriguez, 23, outside a nightclub in Pomona, California, on March 13. Solis was a probationary officer at the Los Angeles Police Department and was off-duty when investigators say he got into a fight with Rodriguez at the club and shot him several times after chasing him down.

With the help of his father, Solis fled for Mexico after the shooting, authorities said. Solis was fired by Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and urged to surrender.

To avoid detection in Mexico, Solis moved between the homes of uncles, cousins and aunts on his dad's side and stayed indoors, said FBI agent Scott Garriola, who heads the agency's Fugitive Task Force in Los Angeles.

"As we say in the trade, he was laying pretty low," Garriola said. "I mean, you don't go out frequently, you don't communicate."

Garriola cited "gumshoe detective work" by the FBI and Mexican investigators for unearthing information over the weekend that indicated Solis was residing in the Colonia El Mezquital area of Ciudad Juarez with family members. Garriola would not elaborate on the source of the information.

"Honestly it was us doing background on him and his family, sharing that information with the Mexicans, the Mexicans going out doing their investigation — intelligence gathering and shaking the trees," Garriola said. "And the big fruit fell off the tree."

The U.S. government expects to dismiss its warrant charging Solis with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, and the Los Angeles County district attorney will handle his extradition and prosecution, the FBI said in Los Angeles.

"We pray that Salome Rodriguez's family can begin to heal as we move through the prosecution phase of this horrible crime," Pomona police Chief Paul Capraro said in a statement.

Rodriguez's family and friends held a prayer vigil Tuesday night after hearing Solis was in custody.

"We're happy. We're happy that he was caught," his mother, Lidia Rodriguez, said through tears.

Solis' father, Victor Solis, has been arrested and charged in federal court in El Paso with making false statements to FBI agents to help his son escape to Mexico.

Victor Solis said in an FBI interview that his son claimed to have five days of vacation and wanted to go to El Paso. The elder Solis said he drove his son to a bus station in the Texas city and didn't see him again.

Victor Solis also claimed he later crossed the border into Mexico alone, but surveillance video showed him crossing the border with his son, according to an FBI affidavit.

Victor Solis is free on bail and awaiting trial in El Paso, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. U.S. District Judge Philip Martinez ordered Solis not to return to California and instead reside with relatives in Texas.

A $25,000 reward had been offered for information leading to the arrest of Henry Solis. The FBI said it was evaluating whether it would pay the reward.

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Associated Press writer Tami Abdollah contributed to this report.