INDIO (CBSLA/AP) – A jury Monday found a 28-year-old man guilty of murdering two Palm Springs police officers and wounding six other officers during a shootout back in October of 2016.
John Hernandez Felix was found guilty Monday in Riverside County Superior Court in Indio of two counts of murder in the shooting deaths of officers Jose Gilbert Vega, 63, and Lesley Zerebny, 27. He was also found guilty of six counts of attempted murder of a peace officer.
The jury also found that the special circumstances of murder of a peace officer and multiple murders to be true, which makes Felix eligible for the death penalty.
The trial will move to the penalty phase Tuesday, where jurors will decide whether to recommend the death penalty for Felix.
On Oct. 8, 2016, officers responded to a domestic disturbance call at Felix’s Palm Springs home when he opened fire on them with an AR-15 rifle, prosecutors say. Zerebny and Vega were both struck by the gunfire. They later died after being rushed to a local hospital.
When Felix finally emerged from the home after an hours-long standoff, he was wearing soft body armor and was carrying several rounds of ammunition. Prosecutors allege he was armed with ammunition designed to penetrate metal and armor.
“This individual wanted to kill police officers,” Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin told reporters at the time. “He armed himself with a weapon to kill police officers. He put on a vest so he would be protected to kill police officers. That’s the motive.”
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 had previously pleaded guilty to assault with a firearm and acknowledged his gang membership in a 2009 case.
In March, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a moratorium on all executions, granting a reprieve to the more than 700 death row inmates.
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