26-year-old John Felix, arrested in killing of two Southern California police officers
Felix, allegedly gunned down three officers, Saturday while they were trying to resolve a domestic dispute
63-year-old veteran Jose Gilbert Vega and new mother Lesley Zerebny, died from the injuries
Gang-banger Felix was previously sentenced to four years in prison in a failed 2009 murder plot
According to suspect’s dad, his intentions all along, allegedly, was to shoot police officers
To be arraigned midweek, facing death penalty
Cop-killer: John Felix deliberately set out to bait and shoot cops
The suspect was taken into custody early Sunday, authorities said. Cops had failed in several unsuccessful attempts, over the course of a 12-hour standoff to where cops failed to make contact with Felix, who was holed up in his family’s residence, and remote-controlled robots were unsuccessfully in pinpointing the suspect’s location in the house. SWAT officers used eventually deployed chemical agents to flush the cop-killer out of the residence. “Almost immediately … the suspect emerged out the back door,” said Riverside County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Ray Wood. “When he emerged, he was wearing soft body armor and he had a number of high-capacity magazines on his person.”
Addressing the press, Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes said:”Today Palm Springs lost two brave officers … I am awake in a nightmare right now.”
Reyes identified Felix as the suspect in the shooting of officers Jose Gilbert Vega and Lesley Zerebny : “It was a simple family disturbance and he elected to open fire on a few of the guardians of the city”.
Officers trying to flush out John Felix who had holed up in his family home
New mom Lesley Zerebny, just returned to duty from her maternity leave
When he was arrested, Felix was wearing body armor and in possession of several magazines of ammunition on him, according to reports. The unofficial view is that prosecutors will likely ask for the death penalty when Felix goes on trial. He’s set to be arraigned midweek on either Wednesday or Thursday.
Police Chief Reyes said the three officers were standing near the front door speaking with Felix, “trying to negotiate with the suspect to just comply,” when he suddenly opened fire on them, killing Zerebny, who only recently returned to the force from maternity leave after giving birth to a now-4-month-old daughter. The other fatality, 35-year veteran Gilberto Vega, is a father of eight, who planned to retire in December.
Officer Vega was off duty, Saturday, however he had been working overtime on his day off. The third injured officer Reyes said, is alert and talking with investigators. He remains unnamed, was likely to be released from the hospital over the weekend.
County SWAT officers quickly sealed off the normally quiet residential neighborhood as police evacuated some residents. Others were advised to stay inside their homes, keep their doors locked and not to open them for anyone until further notice.
Prosecutors at the time accused him of being a member of a criminal gang. He was sentenced to two years in prison.Records show Felix pleaded down to assault with a firearm and admitted his gang connection.
In 2013, he was accused of resisting arrest with Palm Springs police as he was the subject of a forceful arrest three years ago at the same house where Saturday’s shootings occurred. He pled guilty to a count of malicious noise.
Neighbor, Frances Serrano, called authorities after the suspect’s father came to her door across the street and told her his son was “acting crazy.”
He said, “Help. I need help. My son is in the house, and he’s crazy. He has a gun. He’s ready to shoot all the police”.
Palm Springs officers honor their fallen colleagues
She’d gone back inside her home before officers arrived, Serrano said, and a few minutes after they got there she heard gunfire, “starting with a loud — I mean really loud — ‘bang!’” Moments later officers were knocking on her door, warning her to stay inside.
Serrano said Felix had been in jail at one time and had to wear a monitor on his ankle when he was first released. But she added that he had always been friendly and polite to her and her family.
“We never had any problems with him” .
As the lock-down continued, scores of police officers gathered at Palm Springs Desert Regional Medical Center to offer a somber salute as the bodies of Zerebny and Vega were loaded into white hearses for transport to a coroner’s office.
Meanwhile, in front of police headquarters, scores of local residents gathered to leave flowers, balloons and cards Saturday night.
“I don’t even remember anything so vicious and cruel,” said Palm Springs resident Heidi Thompson. “These officers are responding to a domestic call for somebody in need that they don’t even know. They put their life on the line for us, the community. And they get gunned down? I don’t understand it.”