PALM SPRINGS (CNS) – An annual memorial service for two Palm Springs police officers who were gunned down on the job four years ago will be closed to the public this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but can still be viewed online, it was announced Monday.
The service for Officers Jose Gilbert “Gil” Vega and Lesley Zerebny will take place in front of department headquarters on Thursday beginning at 5 p.m., and will be livestreamed on the Facebook page of the Palm Springs Police Officers’ Association.
“Please join us to remember our heroes,” the union wrote in a Facebook post.
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.
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.
The memorial service can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/PSPOA.