10/08/2016 in Palm Springs, California. Two Palm Springs police officers were killed and another injured when they were ambushed by a man who open fire behind the door of a residence the officers approached while responding to what initially was a simple routing call, until the situation turned into an officer involved shooting and a 12 hour standoff with officers and deputies from multiple agencies.
The shooting resulted in the deaths of two of those officers. The third officers is reportedly alert, conscious and doing well, Palm Springs Chief of Police Reyes said during an earlier press conference.
The suspect has been apprehended and identified as John Felix, 26, of Palm Springs. Felix received non-life threatening injuries during this incident . Felix is accused of killing Officers Jose “Gil” Gilbert Vega, 63, and Lesley Zerebny, 27, and wounding a third officer. The unidentified officer was released from a hospital Sunday.
Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin said Felix’s intention was to kill officers that day. Felix was wearing body armor and shot at officers with an AR-15 loaded with armor piercing ammunition. He refused to give up and was finally taken into custody after a standoff that lasted 12 hours.
The deadly incident began when four officers from the Palm Springs Police Department responded to the 2700 block of North Cypress Road in Palm Springs, after receiving a 911 report of a family disturbance at the location.
Deputy Mike Vasquez with Riverside County Sheriffs Media Bureau stated the following in an initial inquiry regarding the situation:
“At approximately 12:10 p.m., Palm Springs officers arrived and attempted to have a male step out of the residence. During this initial contact, officers were met with gunfire through the closed front door and an officer involved shooting occurred. During the exchange of gunfire, three officers were injured.”
Additional officers and deputies responded to the shooting scene and attempted to help the fallen officers, while still under fire from Felix. Even as law enforcement officers administered CPR and life saving measures to the injured officers at great risk to their own lives, Felix refused to surrender. Shortly after, it was discovered that of the three officers shot, two succumbed to their injuries.
Even as law enforcement officers administered CPR and life saving measures to the injured officers at great risk to their own lives, Felix refused to surrender. Witnesses at the scene said while deputies and officers tried to save the mortally wounded officers Felix continued to exchange gunfire with officers trying to help their fallen comrades. He then barricaded himself in his residence.
Multiple law enforcement agencies from surrounding areas responded to the scene. The Coachella Valley Regional SWAT Team and the Hemet-Murrieta Regional SWAT Team arrived and secured the residence where the shooting occurred. As a precautionary measure, residents in adjacent homes were evacuated.
The Palm Springs Police Department requested assistance from the Riverside County Sheriff Department’s SWAT Team to apprehend the suspect, and the Riverside County Sheriff Department’s Central Homicide Unit to conduct the criminal investigation.
After a lengthy standoff, the suspect surrendered peacefully to Riverside County Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SWAT) members and was taken into custody.
Felix faces special-circumstance allegations of murder of a police officer in the line of duty, multiple murders and lying in wait, which qualify him for the death penalty, Riverside District Attorney Micheal Hestrin said. Prosecutors will decide within three weeks whether to seek capital punishment.
Memorial services for Vega and Zerebny will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Palm Springs Convention Center. Graveside honors for Vega are scheduled immediately afterward at the Coachella Valley Public Cemetery, in Coachella. Services for Zerebny will be held at a private location open to family members only.