Suspect with Criminal Record Arrested in Fatal Shooting of Palm Springs Police Officers
Police arrested a 26-year-old California man early Sunday for allegedly fatally shooting two Palm Springs police officers and injuring a third on Saturday, PEOPLE confirms.
John Felix faces two murder charges and an attempted murder of a police officer charge in the deaths of Jose Vega, 63, and 27-year-old Lesley Zerebny and injury of a third, unnamed, officer, police announced in a statement.
The third officer was released from the hospital Sunday evening, police announced.
“I have two officers that are now looking down on us from above, and our police department is now walking in the footsteps of two additional heroes,” Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes said during a Sunday press conference.
Zerebny had recently returned from maternity leave after giving birth. Her child is 4 months old.
Vega had more than three decades on the Palm Springs police force and was working overtime Saturday when he was shot. He was due to retire in two months.
Four officers responded to a Palm Springs home at around 12:10 p.m. after receiving a call about a “family disturbance,” police said. When they arrived, they told a male to step outside the residence, police said.
“During this initial contact, officers were met with gunfire through the closed front door and an officer involved shooting occurred,” police alleged in the statement.
Vega and Zerebny were pronounced dead later at a hospital.
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After the shooting, Felix allegedly barricaded himself in his home, police said, and he was not arrested until at around 12:30 a.m. the next day. Authorities said he “surrendered peacefully” to SWAT members.
A neighbor told the AP that Felix’s father, Santos Felix, said his son had a gun.
“My son is inside and we’re scared, he’s acting crazy,” the neighbor recounted the father saying, according to the AP.
When the father was told to call the police, Felix’s father said his son “already knows they are coming, and he is going to shoot them,” according to the outlet.
Riverside County Assistant Sheriff Joe Cleary said at a press conference that Felix “is not foreign to the justice system.” The Desert Sun reports Felix was previously sentenced to four years in prison for a failed murder plot in 2009, in which he and another suspect reportedly shot but did not kill their target.
Felix allegedly pleaded down to assault with a firearm and admitted to being in a street gang, the Sun reports.
Felix is being held at the Robert Presley Detention Center and is expected to appear in court on Oct. 13, according to jail records.
It was not immediately clear if he’s retained an attorney or entered a plea.