PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The man accused of killing the Palm Springs officer who planned to retire in December and another officer who had just returned from maternity leave, will face the death penalty, Riverside County Dist. Atty. Mike Hestrin announced Wednesday.
John Felix, 26, who pleaded not guilty during his first court appearance for this case more than two weeks ago, faces two counts of murder with the special circumstances of multiple murders, murder of a police officer in the line of duty, and lying in wait. His defense attorney requested to have him assessed psychologically to know if he is mentally fit.
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The officers responded to a family disturbance call at Felix’s home in the 2700 block of Cypress Road. A family member told officers that Felix was armed, sheriff’s officials said in a statement.
Felix was “prepared” and set a trap to ambush the victims on Oct.8. Authorities said he wore body armor during the shooting and used armor-piercing bullets. The officers also donned body armor at the time of the attack, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Felix used an assault rifle with an extended magazine to fire on Officers Lesley Zerebny, 27, and Jose “Gil” Vega, 63, through a metal security gate, authorities said.
Hestrin said he met with the families of the two murdered police officers before publicly announcing his decision to seek capital punishment against Felix. “This was a heinous crime involving the murders of two police officers who were gunned down simply because they were police officers,” Hestrin said in a statement.
“The victims, in this case, were responding to a call for service and died in the line of duty protecting our community.”
Felix also fired at three additional officers and has been charged with three counts of attempted murder. One of those officers was wounded and survived. Felix has also been charged with possession of a stolen AR-15 assault-style rifle that officials say he used in the attack.