A City Mourns the Death of Two Police Officers

A City Mourns the Death of Two Police Officers
Slain officers Jose “Gil” Gilbert Vega and Lesley Zerebny

Slain Officers Jose “Gil” Gilbert Vega and Lesley Zerebny

Palm Springs, CA

Hundreds gathered at the Palm Springs Police Department Sunday evening in honor of two the city’s police officers gunned down in the line of duty Friday afternoon. 

Officers Jose “Gil” Vega and Lesley Zerebny were shot and killed and a third officer was injured when the three responded to a domestic violence disturbance call. 

Sixty-three-year-old Vega, a 35-year veteran of the department had initially planned to retire last year and agreed to stay an additional year to serve as a training officer. Vega who planned to make his retirement final this December was actually working overtime when the shooting occurred. 

Still a rookie, 27-year-old Zerebny, was the wife of a Riverside Sheriff Deputy and mother of a four-month-old daughter. Police Chief Brian Reyes explained during a press conference over the weekend that Zerebny had actually returned to work early after giving birth, “In order to help out,” and also because she was very excited about being a Palm Springs Police Officer. 

The 26-year-old murder suspect, John Hernandez Felix, was arrested late Friday night after a twelve-hour standoff at the residence where the incident occurred—though Felix wore body armor, he was unarmed and surrendered peacefully. According to a neighbor, the suspect allegedly told his father he wanted to kill police officers shortly before the murders occurred. 

During the weekend press conference, Reyes shared that the Palm Springs Police Department had turned the investigation of the shooting over to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. 

At the press conference, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin also spoke. He began his comments with the statement, “An attack on police officers doing their job is an attack on all of us.” He continued, “We will be reviewing the evidence as it has been submitted to us by the sheriff’s department. We will be filing criminal charges on Tuesday based on the evidence we have right now.” He added his department would also include the most current information as revealed by the investigation. 

The charges against Felix will include two counts of first degree murder and two special circumstance charges–one being multiple murder and the other, the murder of a police officer in the line of duty. Hestrin also advised the public there may be additional allegations related to gun charges. 

Felix, who will be arraigned either Wednesday or Thursday is also eligible for the death penalty. “A decision [regarding whether to call for the death penalty] will be made in the next two to three weeks,” Hestrin advised. 

When asked by a reporter whether the death penalty was likely, Hestrin replied, “We have a process and I’m going to stick with the process. I can tell you I consider the brutal murder of a police officer to be a very heinous crime; so, I will leave it at that.” 

Citizens with information related to the case are encouraged to contact the Palm Springs Police Department at (760) 393-3524. 

The Voice/Black Voice News will continue to follow this story.

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