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Off-duty California police officer gunned down in LA Fitness parking lot had just started his career

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Alexandra E. Petri

Los Angeles Times

The Downey Police Department is still looking for a suspect connected to the Monday shooting death of an off-duty Monterey Park police officer in Downey.

Officers were called around 3:25 p.m. to a report of gunshots in the parking lot of the Downey Landing shopping mall, according to the Downey Police Department. When officers arrived, they found the man next to his car in the parking lot near LA Fitness, where he was receiving CPR, police said.

Despite being administered first aid, the victim was eventually pronounced dead at the scene, according to police.

The victim was identified Tuesday as Gardiel Solorio, 26, an off-duty officer from the Monterey Park Police Department.

He started his career in July, Monterey Park police Chief Kelly Gordon said Tuesday.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday night, Monterey Park Police Chief Kelly Gordon said she and her department were in mourning.

“The loss of any life is tragic,” Gordon said. “The loss of this life is especially painful when it’s one of our own.”

A procession on Monday night escorted the officer’s body from the scene to the coroner’s office.

There were few signs Tuesday in the LA Fitness parking that a fatal shooting had occurred there the day before.

Carmen Miranda circled the parking lot with her window down, looking for a memorial for the officer.

But the only things filling the parking lot were cars and gym-goers.

“I was hoping someone would’ve left a candle and flowers,” Miranda said before driving off.

Some gym members expressed apprehension about returning to the gym after the shooting.

“I had anxiety to come back today,” said Issac Limon, 26, of Downey, who was inside the gym when Monday’s shooting took place.

He was lifting weights on Monday afternoon as a part of his daily routine when he heard a burst of four pops through the gym walls, then sirens a few minutes later. Limon waited inside the LA Fitness with dozens of anxious gym members who were on lockdown for an hour. They walked out to find a swarm of police cars and paramedics surrounding a Dodge Charger, its rear window shattered.

Another Downey resident and regular at the LA Fitness, Nick Tepper, had been planning to head to the gym Monday afternoon until he received an alarming text from his cousin.

The shooting erupted just feet from his cousin as waited inside his car for a friend to arrive, Tepper said. Tepper’s cousin ran toward the spot where the off-duty officer lay. An off-duty firefighter instructed him to grab a medical kit from the gym.

Once he returned, the pair tried to tend to the man who lay with multiple gunshot wounds, Tepper said, recalling conversations with his cousin who texted him videos from the scene moments after.

“My cousin said there was too much blood and that there was no way he’s gonna make it, his eyes were rolling back,” said Tepper, while standing at the gym parking lot Tuesday afternoon, near the spot of the shooting

Most of the gym members kept to themselves Tuesday, Limon said, and gym management refused to talk about the shooting, “as if nothing happened.”

Limon said he was shocked to see a shooting in Downey, which he described as “calmer” compared to its neighboring cities.

The middle-class suburban city has been characterized as the “ Mexican Beverly Hills” and as an example of upward mobility of Latinos in California. Yet after a string of shootings in recent years — Monday’s shooting, a 2015 fatal shooting of a Downey police officer in front of the police station, another fatal shooting at a Downey liquor store, and more recently, at a July house party where three were killed — Limon started to draw a sharp contrast to the way he thought about his home: a middle-class suburb that on the surface offers safety and a Downey in which he has internalized fears of death and violence.

“I hope it doesn’t continue, ’cause if it continues, it’s gonna make me think about moving,” Limon said.

Tepper felt safe enough to return, calling such shootings “one-in-a-million.”

“It’s not too often,” Tepper said. He moved to Downey about five years ago from Central Los Angeles, where he said he and cousin witnessed more violent incidents.

Still, the July house party shooting sat fresh in his mind.

“Gotta get guns off the streets,” Tepper said.

The Downey Police Department is leading the investigation but as of Tuesday had not released any details about the shooting, including whether it might have involved one or more suspects or the timeline of events leading up to the gunfire.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

©2022 Los Angeles Times. Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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