Calif. police hunt for cop killer in domestic dispute
Palm Springs Police Officers Lesley Zerebny (l.) and Jose Gilbert (Gil) Vega (r.) were killed Saturday while responding to a domestic disturbance.
(Palm Springs Police Department)
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Saturday, October 8, 2016, 11:05 PM
A California cop killer remained at large Saturday night after gunning down two officers and wounding a third in the resort town of Palm Springs, authorities said.
The officers were responding to a family disturbance call about 12:20 p.m. when a man refused to let them inside his home — and then suddenly opened fire, authorities said.
“Officers were near the front door trying to negotiate with the suspect to just comply,” said an anguished Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes, his voice cracking.
“It was a simple family disturbance and he elected to open fire on a few of the guardians of this city.”
The slain cops were identified as Jose Gil Vega, a 35-year-vet and father of eight who was working an overtime shift, and Lesley Zerebny, the mother of a 4-month-old baby girl.
The 27-year-old Zerebny, who had just returned from her maternity leave, joined the department a year and a half ago.
“I am awake in a nightmare right now,” Reyes said.
The third officer was reported to be in good condition — awake and alert.
Following the shooting, dozens of heavily-armed cops surrounded the home where the gunman was believed to be holed up, Reyes said.
Police sealed off several blocks near the scene, and the police chief urged the media and others not to live stream the officers’ movements on social media.
Emergency personnel attend to a person on a stretcher on the corner of Cypress Road and Del Lago Road in Palm Springs, Calif., on Saturday, after three officers were shot.
(Omar Ornelas/The Desert Sun via AP)
“Understand that we’re actively looking for a cop murderer,” Reyes said.
Neighbor Frances Serrano told The Associated Press she called police after the suspect’s father showed up at her house saying his deranged son was “acting crazy” and threatened to shoot responding cops.
“He said his wife left because she was so scared of him,” Serrano said.
Serrano said she went back inside her home and minutes later heard the crackle of gunfire.
The suspect had spent time in jail and was outfitted with an ankle monitor upon his release.
But Serrano said he was always pleasant and friendly to her and her family.
“We never had any problems with him,” she added.
Neighbors reported hearing up to 20 shots and speculated that the suspect was armed with a high-powered weapon.
“It sounded like fireworks at first,” Juan Garciano, who lives a block from the scene, told the paper.
Officers watch a home on Cypress Road after gunshots were fired in Palm Springs, Calif., early Saturday afternoon. Two officers were killed and one wounded when they responded to a domestic disturbance.
(Omar Ornelas/The Desert Sun via AP)
“I came out of the house and saw police start to block the roads.”
Gerardo Barrera, who was working nearby, said he saw a victim lying motionless on the ground.
“Someone kept pumping her chest but she wasn’t moving,” Barrera said.
Droves of cops converged on the scene in minutes, Barrera added.
Multiple officers in tactical gear were spotted holding defensive positions behind a 4-foot concrete wall, according to the Desert Sun.
Several other heavily-armed cops were stationed near an armored vehicle parked nearby.
“If you do live somewhere in the area, keep your doors locked,” Palm Spring Police Sergeant William Hutchinson said. “Please do not answer your doors for anybody.”
Shootings are rare in Palm Springs, a picturesque desert town that attracts hordes of well-heeled tourists from Los Angeles and elsewhere.