Palm Springs shooter to go before judge today

Lesley Zerebny and Jose Gilbert “Gil” Vega were killed while responding to a domestic disturbance. Courtesy photo.
Lesley Zerebny and Jose Gilbert “Gil” Vega were killed while responding to a domestic disturbance. Courtesy photo.

INDIO (CNS) – A felony settlement conference was scheduled today for a man accused of fatally shooting two Palm Springs police officers in October when they attempted to contact him regarding a domestic disturbance.

John Hernandez Felix, 26, faces first-degree murder and other allegations that could land him on death row in the Oct. 8 killings of veteran training Officer Jose Gilbert Vega, 63, and rookie Officer Lesley Zerebny, 27.

Felix also allegedly wounded a third officer, and fired on two others.

John Hernandez Felix
John Hernandez Felix

The two murder counts include special circumstance allegations of murder of a law enforcement officer, lying in wait and taking multiple lives in the same crime. Felix was also charged with three counts of attempted murder and single counts of unlawful possession of an assault rifle, being a convicted felon in possession of a gun and being in possession of stolen property, with sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations.

The special circumstance allegations make Felix eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

The deaths of Vega and Zerebny marked the first time a Palm Springs police officer had been killed in the line of duty since Jan. 1, 1962, when Officer Lyle Wayne Larrabee died during a vehicle pursuit. Officer Gale Gene Eldridge was fatally shot Jan. 18, 1961, while investigating an armed robbery.

Felix was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and sentenced to two years in prison for a 2009 crime that originally drew an attempted murder charge but was pled down. He was also convicted of street gang activity.

After his release from state prison, he was accused of resisting arrest by Palm Springs police on the same street where he allegedly shot the three officers Saturday. Court records also show that he was on probation at the time
of the shooting for a misdemeanor driving under the influence conviction.

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