Trial opens in man accused of killing two Palm Springs police officers

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (KABC) -- It's been more than two years since Palm Springs Officer Jose Gilbert Vega and Officer Lesley Zerebny were gunned down in the line of duty.

On Wednesday, opening statements began in the murder trial of John Hernandez Felix. He is accused of ambushing the officers during a domestic disturbance call to his parents' home in October 2016.

During opening arguments, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Manny Bustamante recounted the attack to a packed courtroom. He held up the AR-15 Felix allegedly used to fire off 21 rounds - 10 of which he said struck officers and their patrol cars.

Bustamante told jurors how Officer Vega despite being shot through a door by Felix managed to run back to his patrol car to retrieve his rifle but as Vega reached for his weapon he was shot again. Vega was killed just a few months shy of retiring after 35 years of service.

Several in the courtroom wept as the prosecution described to jurors how Officer Zerebny was shot in the back; the single round piercing her protective vest as she ran for cover. Zerebny had just returned to her patrol following maternity leave.

Twelve hours later following a SWAT standoff Felix surrendered but remained defiant.

"As deputy took him into custody he told them I've seen your faces, you are next," said Bustamante.

The defense attorney for Felix portrayed him as a troubled individual who was a poor student, unemployed, had abused drugs and was prone to anger.

On the day of the murders, Felix had been acting strangely and his worried family called police for help.

Felix is charged with two counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder. If found guilty he faces a possible death sentence.
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