A prosecutor urged jurors Thursday to convict a former LAPD officer of first-degree murder for shooting a man on a Pomona street during an off-duty run-in, while the ex-cop’s attorney countered that his client fled to Mexico in a panic after acting in self-defense while trying to arrest the man who he believed had been involved in attacking him inside a bar restroom.
Henry Solis, 32, was arrested by Mexican authorities in the border city of Juarez and deported to the United States about 2 1/2 months after the March 13, 2015, shooting death of 23-year-old Salome Rodriguez Jr.
Solis — who was a probationary LAPD officer at the time — is charged with murder, along with allegations that he personally used and discharged a firearm. Jurors can also consider the lesser crimes of voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter, along with first-degree murder and second-degree murder.
The jury is expected to get the case against Solis after the prosecution delivers its rebuttal argument Friday.
In her closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Martha Carrillo showed jurors a still photo of Solis crossing the U.S.-Mexico border with a “smile” just hours after he left Rodriguez bleeding to death.
Solis subsequently told a roommate — using an expletive — that he had messed up and “killed somebody,” and later conceded that it was him because “the evidence caught up to him,” the prosecutor said, telling jurors that he “came to seek his revenge on whoever he had a beef with” after moving his car to a dark location to avoid detection.
“He’s up to no good. He’s going to exact revenge,” she said, noting that Rodriguez was shot four times. “My guess is somebody disrespected him … He zeroed in on the wrong guy.”
The prosecutor called Solis’ account of two men being involved in an attack on him in a bar restroom — in which he testified that he was sexually assaulted — “a troublesome tall tale.” She also said there was no evidence that Solis was trying to arrest Rodriguez before the shooting.
“I don’t like to call people liars … You use your common sense,” Carrillo told the jury.
Solis’ attorney, Bradley Brunon, countered that he was convinced that his client wouldn’t have been prosecuted if he had stayed at the scene of the shooting.
He said the rookie officer “panicked” and “ran away” in what was the “biggest mistake he’s ever made in his life,” but said it didn’t prove that he should be found guilty.
“It’s not easy to say that a person who kills someone is not guilty,” Brunon said. “But if it’s done in an effort to arrest … by a peace officer, if it’s done in self-defense, it’s not a crime. He is not guilty, and that’s your duty — to find him not guilty.”
The defense lawyer told jurors that his client had been the victim of a crime, and had “ample opportunity” to see Rodriguez during the alleged attack in the bar restroom.
Brunon described his client as a former Marine who underwent “extensive background vetting” for his assignment as a U.S. embassy guard, “lived his entire life … obeying the law, following the rules” and was “not some ticking time bomb.”
Solis, who worked at the LAPD’s Devonshire Division in the San Fernando Valley, was fired soon after becoming the subject of an extensive weeks-long manhunt that ended with his arrest in Mexico. The ex-Marine had been on the force for about four months at the time of the shooting.
Video surveillance cameras along the street picked up much of the interaction between Solis and Rodriguez, but not the shooting itself.
Solis’ father drove him out of state after the shooting and later told federal authorities that he had dropped his son off at a Texas bus stop, but the pair were caught on surveillance video walking across the Mexico border.
Solis had been staying with relatives in the Juarez area prior to his arrest, FBI officials said.
Solis’ father, Victor, was convicted by a federal jury in El Paso of lying to the FBI about helping his son escape. He was sentenced to three years probation and fined $1,000.