Father of Suspect in California Police Killings: He Wanted to Shoot the Police

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Over the weekend two police officers were shot and killed in Palm Springs, California. The suspect is 26-year-old John Felix who was taken into custody early Sunday morning after a standoff with police that lasted for several hours. The officers were responding to a disturbance call when the suspect allegedly started firing at the officers.

One of the officers killed was 63-year-old Jose Vega who had been in the force for 35 years and was two months away from retirement. The other was 27-year-old Lesley Zerebny who had just come back from maternity leave after giving birth to a daughter four months earlier. A third officer was injured but released from the hospital the same day.

According to a neighbor who spoke with the Associated Press, Felix’s father told her, “My son is inside and we’re scared, he’s acting crazy.” He added that they had called the police and that the son said he was going to shoot them. According to Police Chief Bryan Reyes, Felix refused to open the door for the officers and threatened to shoot through it. As they tried to speak to him he opened fire. More officers in tactical gear and an armored vehicle arrived and Felix barricaded himself inside the house. After a failed attempt to try to locate his exact position using robots, officers sent in a chemical agent that finally made him surrender. When he came out, he was wearing light body armor and carrying ammunition.

John Felix was a gang member who lived with his parents. He previously spent four years in prison for a gang-related murder attempt in 2009, for which he took a plea deal and admitted to assault with a firearm and connections to a gang. Felix was arrested three years ago at the same house as the one where the incident on Saturday occurred. He will be charged with two counts of first-degree murder as well as several additional felony counts.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement on Sunday:

Our nation’s heart is broken yet again by the appalling act of violence that claimed two brave law enforcement officers on Saturday. Officers Jose Gilbert Vega and Lesley Zerebny were at opposite ends of their careers, but they shared a steadfast devotion to the people they had sworn to serve.

According to AP, it had been 54 years since the last uniformed police officer killing in Palm Springs. Officer Vega was supposed to have the Saturday off but worked anyway. Officer Zerebny had returned early from maternity leave. It was just a matter of bad timing and bad luck that made the difference between life and death.

Emma Von Zeipel
Emma Von Zeipel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. She is originally from one of the islands of Stockholm, Sweden. After working for Democratic Voice of Burma in Thailand, she ended up in New York City. She has a BA in journalism from Stockholm University and is passionate about human rights, good books, horses, and European chocolate. Contact Emma at



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