An off-duty Monterey Park Police Department officer who was gunned down in the parking lot of a Downey gym was identified Tuesday as a 26-year-old rookie just weeks out of the academy, while investigators continued a dragnet in search of the person or people responsible for the killing.
The shooting was reported about 3:30 p.m. Monday in the 12700 block of Lakewood Boulevard, near the Glenn Anderson (105) Freeway, just outside an LA Fitness gym.
The victim, identified Tuesday as Officer Gardiel Solorio, was found unresponsive in the seat of his car, and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Downey police.
There was still no description of a possible suspect or suspects in the killing as of Tuesday, and no word on a possible motive for the slaying.
MPPD Chief Kelly Gordon said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference that Solorio joined the department as a recruit in January, but only graduated from the sheriff’s training academy on July 22, and began his field training on July 25.
“Although his time with (the department) was very short, we all knew from the moment we met him that he had the heart of service and was going to be a great officer,” Gordon said. “And I could tell that from the moment he walked in and did our first introductions in my office. The family and department are grieving right now, and this is an especially difficult tragedy. It’s a senseless act of violence. He was only 26 years old. I don’t know about all of you, but I have children that age. So to me this is particularly difficult.”
Gordon added training staff at the sheriff’s academy told her Solorio was “hard-working, dedicated and took every aspect of training seriously,” and that he was family oriented.
“The `why’ in the biography he wrote was to be a good role model for his nephews, and he really wanted to make an impact on the community,” Gordon said. “His classmates shared that Officer Solorio had all the characteristics of a great officer — he was humble, dedicated, selfless and hard-working, but even a better person. He brought laughter and joy to many of us.”
Events leading up to the shooting were under investigation. Police were believed to be reviewing surveillance video from the shopping center parking lot.
“We can’t release too much, we are definitely looking for a suspect right now. There might be multiple suspects,” Downey Police Department Capt. Scott Loughner said late Monday.
A solemn police procession involving officers from the Downey and Monterey Park police departments and Downey Fire Department escorted Solorio’s body to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office on Monday night.
Solorio is survived by his parents, brothers, sisters and fiancee.
“It’s a tremendous loss. It’s a loss of life,” Gordon said. “In law enforcement, but especially in the Monterey Park Police Department, we’re a family. That’s the bottom line. We have worked very hard to build a culture within our department that we take care of each other. This is a tragedy. This is a tragedy for his family, but this is a tragedy for the Monterey Park Police Department as well.”
A man who said he knew Solorio from the LA Fitness told KNX Newsradio that the officer “was a wonderful guy. It’s so said.”
“He was the most humble guy I’ve ever seen,” the man told the station. “Right now my heart’s broken.”
On a GoFundMe page established to help cover expenses for family to attend his funeral, Solorio’s sister-in-law, Wanda Marie Lane Solorio, wrote that it was his “lifelong dream” to be a police officer.
“His dream of becoming a police officer after years of hard work and dedication had finally come to fruition, when life was abruptly taken away due to a senseless act of violence,” she wrote. “He was taken from his family way too soon. He was and has always been true American success story.”
She said Solorio was the youngest of 13 children, and the family is hoping to raise money so all of his brothers and sisters can attend his funeral.
Anyone with additional information was encouraged to call Detective Ron Gee at 562-904-2331 or Lt. Dwayne Cooper at 562-904-2370.