Man charged in shooting deaths of officers in Palm Springs, California

Suspect charged with Palm Springs police killings
Suspect charged with Palm Springs police killings

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Story highlights

  • John Hernandez Felix could face the death penalty
  • Officers Jose Gilbert Vega and Officer Lesley Zerebny were fatally shot Saturday

(CNN)A suspect has been charged with multiple counts in the Saturday shooting deaths of two police officers in Palm Springs, California, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said Wednesday.

John Hernandez Felix, 26, faces two counts of murder in the deaths of Officers Jose Gilbert Vega, 63, and Lesley Zerebny, 27.
    John Felix
    The charges carry special circumstance allegations, including murder of a law enforcement officer and lying in wait, that make Felix eligible for the death penalty.
    Hestrin said he will decide whether to seek the death penalty at a later date. He said an attorney will be appointed to represent Felix.
    Felix also was charged with three counts of attempted murder for allegedly opening fire on three other officers. One was wounded by gunfire, the two others were not hit. Other counts include unlawful possession of an assault weapon, which authorities said was stolen, and unlawful possession of a firearm as a convicted felon.
    Felix is accused of ambushing the officers as they responded to a family disturbance call from a woman who said she was Felix's mother.
    Dressed in soft body armor, Felix refused to open the front door and threatened to shoot the officers, police said. As the officers tried to persuade him to follow orders, he opened fire through the closed front door, police said.
    The shootings triggered a 12-hour standoff as Felix barricaded himself in the home before surrendering to police.
    A memorial outside Palm Springs Police Department for Officers Jose Gilbert Vega and Lesley Zerebny
    The shootings left the quiet desert town 100 miles east of Los Angeles in mourning. Vega was due to retire this year, and Zerebny was a new mom with a 4-month-old daughter.
    In the wake of the shootings a steady stream of visitors paid homage to the officers at a memorial outside the police department. Hundreds attended a vigil Sunday night where tearful family members thanked the community for their support.