Two Palm Springs Police officers died Saturday while responding to a family disturbance call. John Hernandez Felix, who opened fire through a closed door and fatally wounded Officers Leslie Zerebny and Jose "Gil" Vega, has been charged with two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. A third officer was wounded at the scene.
The three officers responded to a call from Felix's mother at the home he shares with his parents. According to Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin, Felix intended to kill the officers when he fired. Felix's father told a neighbor that his son was armed and wanted to shoot police prior to the shooting.
Felix, a known gang member, was taken into custody after a long standoff with law enforcement. Police surrounded the home and eventually shot a chemical agent inside to force Felix out. Felix emerged from the home wearing body armor and carrying ammunition, but was otherwise unarmed. Police shot Felix with non-lethal rounds and transported him to a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
Officer Leslie Zerebny, 27, had only been with the Palm Springs Police Department for about a year and a half. She had recently returned to work from maternity leave after giving birth to a daughter four months ago. Officer Gil Vega was a 35-year department veteran who planned to retire in December. Vega had been working overtime on his scheduled day off when responding to the disturbance call at Felix's home.
The Palm Springs community held a candlelit vigil Sunday evening to honor the deceased officers. The Riverside Sherriff's association is raising money in Zerebny and Vega's memory through its fundraising organization, the Riverside Sherriff's Deputy Relief Foundation. Donations can be sent to the Riverside Sheriff's Association at 21810 Cactus Avenue, Riverside, CA 92508.
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