A 27-year-old ex-con charged with the ambush killings of two Palm Springs police officers has been ordered to stand trial.
John Hernandez Felix now faces three additional charges of attempted murder, bringing the total attempted murder counts to six. The additional charges were added during a detailed hearing on Friday.
“Attempted murder of a peace officer does carry a different, higher sentence than attempted murder on a non-peace officer,” John Hall, Spokesperson for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office said. “They are 15 years instead of 7 years.”
Testimony during the hearing revealed new details about the night that Felix is accused of fatally shooting veteran training Officer Jose Gilbert Vega, 63, and rookie Officer Lesley Zerebny, 27.
“I think it was one of the hardest hearings that we’ve been to this whole time,” Vega’s daughter, Gloria Vega, said. “If today’s (Friday) any kind of example of what we have to expect, it’s going to be a tough, emotional road.”
It was the first hearing where David and Lulu Kling, Lesley Zerebny’s parents, attended.
“After the year anniversary, it’s kind of like we’ve a little bit turned the corner. and we could attend this,” David Kling said. “Details that were just gone over lightly today (Friday), will be going into extreme details.”
The shooting happened October 8, 2016, after the officers responded to a family disturbance call at his home.
KESQ I-Team reporter Zak Dahlheimer was in the courtroom. Follow his tweets here.
By about noon, the prosecution had already called four witnesses.
The first, RSO Homicide Investigator Alberto Loureiro, recalled the night of the shootings. He testified that when he arrived to the crime scene on North Cypress Road in Palm Springs, the suspect was still not in custody.
As part of Loureiro’s investigation, he said he interviewed PSPD Officer Abraham Vargas. Loureiro said Vargas saw Officers Vega and Zerebny talking with Felix’s parents in the front yard, and the officers were told Felix was armed.
Loureiro said Vargas witnessed the gunfire. He described seeing three officers, including Vega and Zerebny, running. He described seeing Vega fall, then get back up.