Murder charges filed in shooting deaths of Palm Springs police officers

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- Charges of murder and attempted murder have been filed against the suspect who authorities said shot and killed two Palm Springs police officers, officials announced at a press conference Wednesday morning.

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin announced 26-year-old John Felix of Palm Springs had formally been charged on Wednesday in the deaths of officers Jose Vega and Lesley Zerebny.

Hestrin said Felix was charged with two counts of murder with special circumstances, three counts of attempted murder, unlawfully possessing an assault weapon, unlawfully possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony, unlawfully possessing ammunition after being convicted of a felony and possessing stolen weapons.

"This individual wanted to kill police officers. He armed himself with a weapon to kill police officers. He put on a vest so that he would be protected, so that he could kill police officers," Hestrin said. "That's the motive. He wanted to gun down police officers because they wore the uniform."

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Felix was convicted for active gang membership and activity back in 2010 and was sentenced to four years in prison, Hestrin stated.

The stolen weapon was an AR-15 and officials said they were attempting to figure out if someone had helped Felix get his hands on the weapon.

"If I was presented with information on somebody furnishing an illegal assault weapon, you bet there'd be charges," Hestrin said.

Authorities said Felix would be eligible for the death penalty. Hestrin said his office would make the determination on whether his office will seek the death penalty within three weeks.

Felix was scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday.

"He attacked these officers for no reason other than that they were officers coming to a call," Hestrin said. "He knew what he was doing and he did it very deliberately and on purpose and he prepared to do what he did."

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Investigators said officers were responding to a family disturbance call on Saturday when Felix opened fire from inside his home, killing Vega and Zerebny.

"I would describe this as an ambush," Hestrin said. "These police officers walked into a trap, an ambush, and that this individual set out specifically to kill police officers."

Vega, 63, was a 35-year veteran at the police department and was due to retire in December. Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes said Vega had been working overtime on an unscheduled shift. Vega was also married and a father of eight.

Zerebny, 27, had been with the department for about 18 months. Reyes said she had given birth to a child about four months ago and had just returned to work. She was married to a Riverside County sheriff's deputy.

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