On Saturday, October 8, 2016, shortly after noon, four Palm Springs Police officers responded to the report of a family disturbance in the 2700 block of North Cypress Road. They attempted to have a male step out of the home, but without warning the male, later identified as 26-year-old John Felix shot through the still closed front door. Gunfire was exchanged, during which time three officers were hit. Backup was called and immediately life-saving efforts were administered to the three wounded officers while trying to take the suspect, who refused to surrender into custody.
The injured officers were taken to the hospital, where two of the three were pronounced dead. Officer Jose “Gil” Vega: a 35-year police veteran due to retire in December and Lesley Zerebny; a rookie police officer, and mother of a 4-month-old baby girl, both lost their lives in the line of duty. The third officer is being treated for what officials are saying are non-life-threatening injuries.
The residents nearby were evacuated as a precaution. The shooting and standoff required a multi-agency response including the Palm Springs Police Department, the Coachella Valley Regional SWAT Team, the Hemet-Murrieta Regional Swat Team, and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s Swat Team. The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department responded to conduct the investigation. Eventually, Felix surrendered to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Swat Team without further incident. He was taken to the hospital for the treatment of non-life-threatening injuries and upon release, will be booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center for the murders of two peace officers. It is unclear at this time, what type, if any, additional charges Felix will face.
As part of protocol in officer-involved shootings; the Palm Springs Police Department officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave pending investigation results. Anyone with information is urged to call the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Central Homicide Investigator Loureiro at (760)393-3524.
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