PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Police have apprehended the man suspected of fatally shooting two officers and wounding another in Palm Springs, California, authorities announced Sunday.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department identified him as John Felix. He will be charged with two counts of murder on a peace officer.
Officials say Felix surrendered after a lengthy standoff. He was injured and treated at a hospital.
Two officers trying to resolve a family dispute were killed Saturday when a man they had been speaking with suddenly pulled out a gun and opened fire, Palm Springs police Chief Bryan Reyes said. A third officer was wounded and remained hospitalized.
The chief identified the slain officers as Jose “Gil” Gilbert Vega and Lesley Zerebny.
Zerebny, 27, had been with the department for about 18 months and only recently returned from maternity leave after giving birth to a daughter four months ago. Vega, the father of eight, was a 35-year veteran who planned to retire in December. He had been working overtime on his day off Saturday. The wounded officer’s name was not released.
Riverside County SWAT officers quickly sealed off the normally quiet residential neighbourhood in this desert resort town as police evacuated some residents. They told others to stay inside their homes, keep their doors locked and not to open them for anyone until further notice.
Reyes didn’t identify the shooting suspect by name but indicated police had had previous dealings with him. He declined to elaborate, adding that Riverside County sheriff’s deputies were now in charge of the investigation.
As the lockdown continued, scores of police officers gathered at Palm Springs Desert Regional Medical Center to offer a sombre salute as the bodies of Zerebny and Vega were loaded into white hearses for transport to a coroner’s office.
Meanwhile, in front of police headquarters, scores of local residents gathered to leave flowers, balloons and cards Saturday night.
“I don’t even remember anything so vicious and cruel,” said Palm Springs resident Heidi Thompson. “These officers are responding to a domestic call for somebody in need that they don’t even know. They put their life on the line for us, the community. And they get gunned down? I don’t understand it.”
The shooting occurred just three days after a popular Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant was shot and killed in the high desert town of Lancaster.
Sgt. Steve Owen was answering a burglary call when sheriff’s officials say he was shot by a man who then stood over him and shot him four more times.
A paroled robber has been charged with murder.
Hundreds of residents held a candlelight vigil Saturday night in his honour.
John Rogers reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press Writer Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco and Adam Kealoha Causey in Phoenix also contributed to this story.