Solorzano overcomes to serve CSULB

Imagine hearing about a family member being robbed and three days later, seeing your own mother robbed. Imagine going to a carnival and seeing a drive-by shooting where gang members were trying to target their rivals but killed a security guard instead.

After University Police Lt. Fernando Solorzano saw these incidents occur at a young age, he wanted to protect the community and became a police officer.

At 12 years old, Solorzano vividly remembers his mother being robbed at knifepoint in front of him.

Solorzano still remembers the suspect to this day. He was a black male with a medium-sized afro, and wore a brown leather jacket, with slacks and slip-on shoes. He was coming down the corner of his street, Solorzano said.

“I remember just looking at the suspect as we drove past him, but I didn’t think anything of it,” he said. “I got out [of the car] to open the gate and in a matter of seconds, he had a knife out to my mom’s neck trying to get her purse,” he said.

Solorzano said he froze as his mom yelled and screamed.

“I was in shock,” he said. “My dad struck the suspect in the back of his neck and the suspect fell, losing his balance and landing on top of my mother still holding the knife to her neck.

He said the suspect swung at his dad with the knife, but he missed. Solorzano said he was still frozen, but his dad told him to give the dog the command to attack the suspect.

Solorzano’s dog got on the suspect and was able to distract the suspect away from his parents. The suspect freed himself and ran, he said.

“My dad was a real hero for me that day and still is for me,” Solorzano said.

But the spark for Solorzano to pursue his dream of becoming a police officer occurred when the detective came and showed him the lineup for his mother’s attacker.

Solorzano said he was able to identify the suspect out of the lineup, but he said the detective asked him how he knew which person attacked his mother.

“Because as my dad made the left turn, I made eye contact with him,” he said. “To this day I still see his face, No. 5,” Solorzano said.

Three days before his mom was robbed, his sister was also robbed.

“I never forgot that,” he said.

When Solorzano was a teenager, he was at a carnival and he saw a drive-by shooting that killed a security guard. He said he remembers the muzzle flash of the shotgun that blew open the security guard’s chest.

“But law enforcement was just a blink of [becoming an officer] it. I remember those events and how shocking they were for me,” he said. “It was then, I thought, if I could ever do something, I wanted to do my part in helping people.”

However, his parents wanted him to pursue a “better established career.”

“My dad was an electrician, and he wanted to see me become something more than what he was, and so in his eyes he wanted me to be an engineer,” Solorzano said.

While attending Cal State Long Beach, Solorzano began his study in engineering, but he said he found it boring. He finally decided to pursue his own career in law enforcement, even though it wasn’t supported by his family.

“I always wanted to be a police officer,” Solorzano said. “It was just one of those strong desires I had as a child.”

At 23, Solorzano applied to the University Police Department at CSULB to get his “feet wet” and to learn the field.

“That was about 12 years ago and here I am now,” he said.

Staying with University Police helped Solorzano grow with the department quicker than any outside agencies.

“He has a very high standard of performance,” University Police Capt. Stan Skipworth said. “He is a tremendous developer.”

When Skipworth was promoted to captain and Solorzano to lieutenant, Skipworth told him to trust what had gotten him to where he had arrived.

“I just told him that it is important for him to rely on his good judgment and to rely on his ability to be an inclusive manager and bringing people together, getting the best possible information to make good sound decisions and act accordingly,” Skipworth said.

Solorzano said his goal for CSULB is to be able to reach the community in a professional manner.

“Ideally, I want to see a student graduate without being a victim of crime,” Solorzano said. “But I have to be realistic about it and acknowledge the fact that we are going to have victims of crime.”

Solorzano said he wants to see the organization respond to the problems and more importantly be pro-active to the problems that may occur.

“He has a very good understanding of what works well within a police department and what works well to support the community, and he’s demonstrated that in every aspect of his career,” Skipworth said.

However, Solorzano describes that there are some things that are frustrating and disappointing for him.

“It’s frustrating when people refuse to hold themselves accountable for their wrongdoing and then blame it on law enforcement,” Solorzano said.

For example, when officers stop drunken drivers and arrest them, the drivers will go to court and challenge it. They’ll argue that police stopped them because they were driving a truck and they’re Hispanic, he said. He said that drivers end up accusing police officers of racial profiling.

“That gets frustrating and it gets old really quick,” Solorzano said.

But Solorzano said they were stopped because they were all over the road, ran a red light or and almost hit a car. Then he smelled alcohol on their breath, and the Breathalyzer test showed they were legally intoxicated, he said.

Additionally, Solorzano said it is disappointing when students see something suspicious and don’t report it to the police in a timely manner.

However, when someone has the courage to call the University Police, Solorzano said the police can react to the situation because they rely on the community to help them as much as the community wants to help itself.

“There is this collaborative effort where we can work as a team and reach the ultimate goal, which is the apprehension of criminals,” Solorzano said.

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