PALM SPRINGS (CBSLA.com) — Hundreds came together in Palm Springs Sunday to share their grief over an unspeakable tragedy involving it’s city’s police department.
Officer Jose “Gil” Gilbert Vega wasn’t supposed to be working Saturday, but chose to come in on overtime before responding to a “domestic disturbance” call in Palm Springs, the department’s police chief said Sunday.
Vega, a 35-year veteran of the department, had planned to retire, and was the first person to walk up to the home in the 2700 block of North Cypress Road.
“That 35-year veteran was the first one walking up to that door when he was called for service,” said Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes at an afternoon news conference.
Police said it was then that the officers were met with gunfire through a closed front door, and an officer-involved shooting occurred.
As Reyes explains, Vega was scheduled to retire, but had extended his career.
“He extended his career for this year because we called upon him as a train officer,” he said. “Again, we’re walking in the footsteps of heroes.”
The other officer killed – 27-year-old Lesley Zerebny – had been on the job for a year and a half. She had recently returned from maternity leave after giving birth to a daughter.
Reyes described Zerebny as a very excited officer, eager to learn her new profession.
“[She] elected to come back from to the department early to help out,” said Reyes of Zerebny, who had given birth four months ago.
Zerebny was married to a deputy sheriff with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
“To see her laying down with her eyes open and to witness her husband in full Riverside County Sheriff’s uniform because he is a deputy sheriff kiss her on the forehead for the last time is tough,” said Reyes.
The accused, identified by authorities as 26-year-old John Felix of Palm Springs was taken into custody after a lengthy standoff. He was booked on two counts of murder on a peace officer, authorities said.
“We have two extremes of the spectrum in terms of the officers’ careers – one at the tail-end, and one at the beginning,” Reyes said.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has been set for Zerebny’s family. Click here for more information.