Three police officers were shot in Palm Springs, California and at least two are dead, including a new mother and a veteran officer who was working overtime.
The Desert Sun identified the slain officers as Lesley Zerebny and Jose Gilbert “Gil” Vega. Zerebny had just returned to work after giving birth to a now four-month-old child, and Vega was near retirement.
Their deaths led to heart-wrenching scenes as fellow officers and the community mourned their loss.
The shooter was captured early Sunday and is identified by police as John Hernandez Felix, 26, a Palm Springs resident with a violent criminal historu. The shooting occurred the afternoon of October 8. CBS News initially said the officers were in unknown condition, but USA Today now says the two officers have died.
The mass shooting comes on the heels of unrest in major American cities over police shootings of African-American men, including those in several California communities over the past month. The mass shooting also comes just months after police officers were ambushed and murdered in Dallas, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Witnesses Said They Heard So Many Shots It Sounded Like Machine Guns & the Chief Called the Slain Officers ‘Guardians of the City’
According to The Desert Sun, “Witnesses said they heard between 10 and 20 gunshots from what sounded like machine guns.”
“Three officers shot. Condition unknown,” read the terse message posted on social media by the Palm Springs Police Department.
Watch the police news conference on the shooting:
The police chief, Bryan Reyes, emotionally referred to the deceased officers as “guardians of the city,” said KTLA, adding that the third officer was expected to survive.
Learn more about the suspect, Felix, here:
2. There Were Reports the Suspect ‘Wanted to Shoot Police’ & the Community Mourned the Officers in Emotional Scenes
A neighbor reported that the suspect allegedly “wanted to shoot police,” according to a Twitter report from Jeff Nguyen, a KCAL9 and CBS2 reporter.
The suspect’s father said he had mental health issues and allegedly wanted to shoot police officers, other news reports also said.
3. Zerebny Had Recently Given Birth & Was New to the Police Department
The Desert Sun said Officer Zerebny was the mother of a 4-month-old child, and Officer Vega was working overtime and due to retire soon. Zerebny was only 27. She had been on the police force only 18 months, said a Go Fund Me site set up to help her husband, Zack, and their child.
The newspaper said Vega had been on the force 35 years and was supposed to retire in December.
CBS News reported that officers may have been responding to a family disturbance call at the time of the shooting.
The argument was between a father and son, said The Los Angeles Times.
According to The New York Post, police allegedly said that “the officers were talking calmly to the man, trying to resolve things when he suddenly opened fire on them.”
ABC 7 said the suspect allegedly wouldn’t open the door when officers responded, “threatening to shoot them.”
4. The Community Joined Together in Order to Mourn the Officers in Emotional SCenes
The community gathered together to mourn the slain officers. A candlelight vigil was held, and a procession accompanied their bodies.
At first, information was conflicting about the officers’ conditions. The Desert Sun newspaper reported that two of the officers had died. However, The Los Angeles Times said two of the officers were “gravely injured” and one might not survive.
The L.A. Times then updated its report to say one of the officers had died, and the other was in critical condition. USA Today then confirmed the earlier Desert Sun report and said two of the officers have died.
One witness reported seeing a person lying motionless on the ground, said The New York Daily News.
5. The Suspect Was Captured After Robots Were Used to Breach a Home’s Door
The Los Angeles Times said the scene remained active, with the suspect at large and SWAT teams combing the area. The suspect was still being sought late into the evening.
Police were focusing on a home where they said the suspect might be, and were using a robot at the scene. Police said they captured Felix at 1 a.m. Sunday.