INDIO ( — A gang member pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder charges in the killing of two Palm Springs police officers in what authorities called an ambush during a domestic dispute call.

John Hernandez Felix entered the pleas in a Riverside County courtroom, where he appeared with shackles on his legs and was ordered held without bail.

Authorities said Felix was intent on killing police on Saturday when he carried out the latest attack on officers across the nation that have included ambushes in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La.

Felix’s public defender Michael Rowlands had asked for a delay in the arraignment so his client could undergo a psychological exam.

“We need to get that done before we decide which way we are going to proceed,” Rowlands said.

Superior Court Judge Victoria Cameron denied the request but said she would allow Felix to possibly change his plea in November after the assessment.


Felix, 26, in a gray dress shirt and showing little expression, also pleaded not guilty to three attempted murder charges and a pair of weapons charges. He spoke only to enter the plea and answer yes-or-no questions.

Felix is eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors have not yet announced whether they will seek it.

The courtroom was packed with victims’ family members and police officers.

Rowlands argued that cameras should not be allowed in the courtroom to avoid prejudicing the public against Felix. The judge, however, allowed cameras under the condition that Felix was not photographed or filmed coming and going from the courtroom so his leg shackles would not be seen.

Felix is accused of killing Officers Jose “Gil” Gilbert Vega, 63, and Lesley Zerebny, 27, and wounding a third officer when they came to his family home on Saturday in response to a call involving a domestic disturbance. Police have not released further details.

Vega, a 35-year veteran of the force, was preparing to retire. Zerebny had been with the department about 18 months and left behind a 4-month-old daughter with her husband, a Riverside County sheriff’s deputy.

Felix previously pleaded guilty to assault with a firearm and acknowledged his gang membership in a 2009 case.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (2)
  1. Only in America can a mental midget killer get caught in the act and then be given the option of pleading “not guilty.”

    Name one gang-bang idiot in YOUR neighborhood who fears the California “death penalty?”

    In a sane society, anybody caught in the act of violence with a weapon would be guillotined on the city hall lawn within 5 days.

    Start lopping off heads of the obviously guilty, and I can promise you serious crime would begin falling to near zero.

    Keep in mind that since the beginning of time, the ebb & flow of what societies allow, swings from goofy tolerance (as now) to righteous acts of retribution.

    The pendulum will assuredly swing back toward guillotines on the courthouse lawn.

    The only real question is when.

  2. ZumaMom says:

    When Hillary is elected we will all have someone like this killer as our next-door neighbor.
    Open the border and let them all in. Viva.

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