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After confronting a threat, Deputy Joseph Solano remembered for his courage and kindness

May Lau, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

"His communication skills were phenomenal," Rodriguez said. "Every time I spoke to him, I got that vibe from him, that he had that knowledge of being a grownup."

Before that assignment, Solano worked in court services and at Twin Towers Correctional Facility.

Indeed, Solano's calm demeanor earned him a family nickname of "J.C.," which stands for "Joe Cool," inspired by the sunglasses-wearing alter-ego of Snoopy from the comic strip "Peanuts."

Julianna Loza, the deputy's longtime girlfriend, said his collected, sometimes reserved poise was a complement to her instinct for being outgoing and outspoken. The two met while working -- her job, which she declined to identify, involves the criminal justice system -- and bonded quickly.

"He just radiated positive energy. He was a genuine, caring, hardworking man," she said. "We met people that were with him during his last breath, and in the story they told us, they said there was still a sparkle in his eye, and they didn't even know him."

Loved ones said that when Solano was not at work, his life revolved around food and family.

The Los Angeles area native left behind a son, a longtime girlfriend and a stepdaughter, and was also the sole provider for his mother. He opened up during family gatherings, often goading others to dance and teasing that he could "cut a rug," though he never showed off his moves, family members said.

Solano also kept a mental encyclopedia of restaurant suggestions. Plunkett, the captain, said his latest recommendation was a special ice cream joint in Koreatown.

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"He loved to eat. Anything he could get his hands on. And in fact, I was wondering why the hell he was at Jack in the Box because we were supposed to go to dinner that night," Loza said, adding wryly that they had planned to eat salad.

But the deputy, whose father was a firefighter and uncle was a police officer, also stayed fit by running and swimming, Loza said. He was one of the first volunteers to run in a newly-formed team representing Access to Care Bureau in the Baker to Vegas foot race, a competition between law enforcement groups from all over the world.

"He inspired and encouraged other runners, and because of that, we were able to form a team," said Plunkett, adding that the bureau will run in its first Baker to Vegas race early next year.

"We are going to run in his honor," she said.

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