Today marks two years since Palm Springs Police Officers Jose ‘Gil’ Vega and Lesley Zerebny were gunned down in the line of duty. Both families said the pain of losing them is still intense.
Lesley’s father, David Kling recalls that day. “I remember every single detail of that day. The initial phone call was from my daughter Britta, and she said, ‘Lesley’s been shot.'”
Two years later, it’s impossible to justify what happened October 8th, 2016.
“Three or four, maybe five minutes later, the phone rang again. I didn’t want to pick it up because I knew what it was going to be,” says Kling.
Both officers were responding to a domestic disturbance call, when it went horribly wrong. Lesley’s dad still remembers that terrible phone call.
“She just said two words to me.’She’s gone.’ No parent should have to go through that.”
They say time erases pain, but there’s a certain pain that touches your heart and never goes away.
“The pain of losing her it stays with us every single day,” says Kling.
Emotions are also still raw for the Vega’s. Gil’s children become emotional as they thank their Uncle for helping them through the last two years.
“We wanted to say thank you for stepping up for us when dad left.”
And for both families, it’s the smallest things that bring back the biggest memories.
Lesley’s father has a special bracelet he never takes off, making him feel close to Lesley. “Yes it does and I always have it on, always.”
Officer Vega’s daughter Gloria has something similar, “This is my dad’s thumb print and this is a folded flag that we got. I wear it everyday, all the time. I don’t take it off.”
Even something old, like an original iPhone 3, remind Daivd Kling of his daughter, “The reason that I have it is that Lesley bought it for me for 99 cents. Things which she has given me like this phone, I’ll never get rid of it as long as it’s running, and even when it stops running, I’ll still keep it.”
In the two years since that devastating day, there have been numerous memorials honoring both officers. From the Palm Springs Police Department, to one at the state capitol. And a stretch here on Highway 111 has been named in their memory. But despite all the honor bestowed upon Officer Jose Gil Vega and Officer Lesley Zerbeny, both families still feel that intense pain.
“He went down as a hero, but in the family you still take the loss and it’s a loss we deal with everyday,” says Issac Vega, Gil’s son.
Gil’s brother Jose, also reflects on the loss. “It’s been really tough I miss my brother a lot.”
Lesley’s dad says the hardest part is seeing his granddaughter, Cora, grow up without a mom.
He says, “the first couple of times that I went to see Cora, I’d have to excuse myself and go out in the back yard because seeing Cora and knowing that Lesley wasn’t there for her.”
As for Officer Gil Vega, his son says he was one of the best. “He had to deal with so much negative throughout the day. Very positive, very uplifting, very down to earth, grounded.”
Glorida says, “it makes me sad to know that at this point he would be retired and there’s so many things that we would of and should have been doing, and could have been doing, and we never had that chance.”
One thing is for sure, Jose Gil Vega and Lesley Zerebny were caring officers who paid the ultimate price, but they were also many peoples loved ones who will never be forgotten.