Ruben Vives et al., Los Angeles Times, October 9, 2016
The man suspected of killing two Palm Springs police officers and wounding another was wearing body armor and equipped with high capacity magazines when he was taken into custody, authorities said.
SWAT officers made several attempts over the course of a 12-hour standoff to make contact with suspect John Felix, 26, who was holed up in his family’s residence, authorities said at a Sunday morning news conference. But there was no response.
Remote-controlled robots were used unsuccessfully to pinpoint the suspect’s location in the house. Eventually, chemical agents were deployed into the residence, authorities said.
“Almost immediately . . . the suspect emerged out the back door,” said Riverside County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Ray Wood. “When he emerged, he was wearing soft body armor and he had a number of high-capacity magazines on his person.”
Felix was not armed and surrendered peacefully when he was taken into custody about 1 a.m., authorities said. He was rushed to a hospital for treatment of injuries that were not life-threatening.
He was expected to be booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside on two counts of murder of a peace officer.
The officers killed were identified as Officer Jose “Gil” Vega, a 35-year veteran of the department who was due to retire in December, and Officer Lesley Zerebny, who had been with the department 1 ½ years and was the mother of a 4-month-old girl.
During Sunday’s news conference, an emotional Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes spoke about the loss of his officers and the impact on the community.
Reyes said the third officer who was wounded in Saturday night’s attack was doing well and assisting investigators. He said the officer could be released from the hospital sometime Sunday.
Felix was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon after an initial charge of attempted murder in 2009. Prosecutors at the time accused him of being a member of a criminal gang. He was sentenced to two years in prison. In 2013, he was accused of resisting arrest with Palm Springs police on the same street where Saturday’s shooting occurred. He pleaded guilty to a count of malicious noise.
The officers went to the scene in the 2700 block of Cypress Road shortly after noon, police said. They tried to make contact with the suspect, who threatened to shoot the officers through the front door.
“They were responding to a simple family disturbance and [the gunman] elected to open fire,” an emotional Reyes told reporters during an afternoon news conference.
Frances Serrano, who lives on Cypress Road, across the street from where the shooting took place, was coming out of her garage around noon Saturday when her neighbor came bursting out of his own garage.
The man sought Serrano’s attention.
“He said, “Help. I need help. My son is in the house, and he’s crazy. He has a gun. He’s ready to shoot all the police,’ ” Serrano recalled the father saying.
The father “was very nervous,” Serrano said. “He was afraid of his son.”
Serrano, 65, said she called authorities, and as soon as she began walking back into her house, she heard gunshots, “starting with a loud–I mean really loud–‘bang!’ ”
Law enforcement and the suspect appeared to be exchanging gunfire, she said.