Slain off-duty Monterey Park police officer is remembered as ‘tough as nails’

A man sets up a portrait of a police officer on an easel
A photo of Gardiel Solorio, 26, is displayed at a news conference Tuesday after the Monterey Park police officer was killed in an off-duty shooting.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

The off-duty Monterey Park police officer who was killed this week in a Downey shooting was “tough as nails” and “destined for bigger things,” his family and friends said.

Gardiel Solorio, 26, was fatally shot Monday in the parking lot of an LA Fitness gym. No suspects have been identified, and details about the shooting are scarce.

Solorio joined the Monterey Park Police Department in July after graduating from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Academy.

He is survived by his parents, siblings and a fiancée, Monterey Park Police Chief Kelly Gordon said.

“His family and friends described him as tough as nails and a child at heart,” Gordon said during a news conference Tuesday in front of Downey City Hall.

A Downey Police tent set up next to a car that had crashed into another car in a parking lot
An investigation is underway after the off-duty officer was found shot to death in the parking lot of an LA Fitness in Downey.
(KTLA-TV Channel 5)

He joined the department with a goal to serve the community and be a positive role model for his nephews, Gordon said.

“The family and department are grieving right now,” Gordon said. “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. For me, it’s particularly difficult.”

Solorio had worked single-mindedly toward becoming a police officer, a friend remembered.

“We knew he was destined for bigger things,” Gabriel Ortega said, adding, “You couldn’t not love the guy.”

For the record:

8:21 a.m. Aug. 10, 2022A previous version of this story misspelled Gabriel Ortega’s last name as Ortej.

Ortega and Solorio met years ago while working security together. Solorio told his friend about his dream of becoming a police officer and followed a career path that he thought would make him the best possible candidate for the academy, Ortega said.

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Aug. 9, 2022

Solorio became a supervisor and “took care of everybody on his team,” he said.

The pair stayed in touch after Solorio left for the academy and had been texting just before the shooting, Ortega said. Solario shared how he had recently made his first arrest and said his colleagues commended his instincts.

“He was proud of the work he was doing,” Ortega said. “He was really excited.”

The last time they texted was around 2:30 p.m. Monday, Ortega said. They made plans to get lunch together soon.

“It’s just a tragedy that his life was taken so short,” Ortega said.