Fa­ther: Suspect in of­fi­cers’ slay­ing wanted to shoot po­lice

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - NATION+WORLD -

PALM SPRINGS >> The young of­fi­cer had just re­turned to the po­lice force af­ter ma­ter­nity leave. The older one was two months short of re­tire­ment. Both South­ern California of­fi­cers were fa­tally shot over the week­end, al­legedly by a gang mem­ber “act­ing crazy” and in­tend­ing to shoot po­lice, ac­cord­ing to his fa­ther.

Palm Springs po­lice Chief Bryan Reyes iden­ti­fied the of­fi­cers slain Satur­day as Jose “Gil” Gil­bert Vega, 63, and Les­ley Zerebny, 27. A third of­fi­cer was wounded af­ter po­lice re­sponded to a do­mes­tic dis­tur­bance call.

The sus­pected gun­man’s fa­ther told a neigh­bor his son was armed, “act­ing crazy” and wanted to shoot po­lice.

John Felix, 26, was ap­pre­hended early Sun­day af­ter a lengthy stand­off and will be charged this week with mur­der.

Felix fi­nally emerged wear­ing soft body ar­mor and car­ry­ing am­mu­ni­tion but no weapon af­ter po­lice shot a chem­i­cal agent into the home where he had holed up, of­fi­cials said.

Vega had sub­mit­ted his pa­per­work to re­tire at the end of the year af­ter a long and dec­o­rated ca­reer, Reyes said.

“Here he is, 35 years in, still push­ing a pa­trol car for our com­mu­nity to make it bet­ter — on a day he wasn’t even sched­uled to work,” the chief said.

Reyes said Zerebny “pressed for­ward ev­ery day to make it bet­ter for ev­ery­body else.” She and her hus­band, a sher­iff’s deputy, were new par­ents to a four­month-old baby.

“To see her lay­ing down with her eyes open and to wit­ness her hus­band in full River­side County sher­iff’s uni­form ... kiss her on the fore­head for the last time... it’s tough,” Reyes said, fight­ing back tears.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors were try­ing to piece to­gether what led up to a 911 call about a fam­ily dis­tur­bance that pre­ceded the cold-blooded killings.

A neigh­bor, Frances Ser­rano, told The As­so­ci­ated Press that the suspect’s pan­icked fa­ther, San­tos Felix, ear­lier said his son, an ad­mit­ted gang mem­ber, had a gun.

“My son is in­side and we’re scared, he’s act­ing crazy,” Ser­rano said the older Felix told her. When it was sug­gested they call the po­lice he said, “Yeah, he al­ready knows they are com­ing, and he is go­ing to shoot them.”

Ser­rano said she went back in­side her house and within min­utes po­lice cars ar­rived and gun­fire erupted.

Po­lice said John Felix sud­denly pulled out a gun and opened fire on the of­fi­cers who had re­sponded to a dis­tur­bance call Satur­day af­ter­noon at the home he shared with his par­ents in a quiet neigh­bor­hood of sin­gle-story ranch homes in this desert re­sort city.

Zerebny had been with the depart­ment for about 18 months and re­cently re­turned early from ma­ter­nity leave af­ter giv­ing birth to a daugh­ter. Vega, a mar­ried fa­ther of eight, was a 35-year vet­eran who planned to re­tire in De­cem­ber.

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