The annual memorial service for two Palm Springs police officers Jose Gilbert "Gil" Vega and Lesley Zerebny who were gunned down on the job four years ago was held virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
At a toned down ceremony outside the Palm Springs Police Department, family and former colleagues of the officers gathered to commemorate the somber anniversary.
"My brother was very very proud to be a policeman," said Joe Vega.
"We haven't been the same since since we lost Lesley," said David Kling, Zerebny's father.
"We love you always, we miss you greatly, we will forever remember," said Andrea Murray, Vega's stepdaughter.
John Hernandez Felix, 30, opened fire on the officers with an AR-15 rifle on Oct. 8, 2016, while they were responding to a domestic disturbance call at the Felix family home in the 2700 block of Cypress Avenue in Palm Springs.
"It's a very difficult time every year, the same day, and it feels like it just occurred," said Lt. William Hutchinson.
Felix, who was positioned inside the residence, shot the officers while they were standing outside the home. He was convicted and sentenced to death last year and is housed at San Quentin State Prison.
Vega, 63, was a veteran cop who was killed just months before he was set to retire after three decades of service. Zerebny, 27, had been with the department for 18 months and had just returned to duty following maternity leave, having given birth to a daughter, Cora, four months earlier.
Vega and Zerebny were the first Palm Springs police officers killed in the line of duty since Jan. 1, 1962, when Officer Lyle Wayne Larrabee died during a vehicle pursuit. The only other death in the department was that of Officer Gale Gene Eldridge, who was fatally shot on Jan. 18, 1961, while investigating an armed robbery.
Though Felix was sentenced to death, it's unlikely he will be executed anytime soon -- Gov. Gavin Newsom's moratorium on capital punishment remains in effect, and prior to that, California had not executed a prisoner since 2006.