Jury recommends death penalty in ambush killing of Calif. officers

The jury that convicted the man of murder and attempted murder earlier this month recommended capital punishment


Associated Press

INDIO, Calif. — A jury on Thursday recommended death for a man convicted of killing two Southern California police officers and wounding six others in an ambush-style attack in 2016, prosecutors said.

The same jury that convicted 28-year-old John Hernandez Felix of murder and attempted murder earlier this month recommended capital punishment, according to the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.

Palm Springs councilmembers Ginny Foat, far right and J.R. Roberts, hug Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes at the conclusion of a press conference for slain Palm Springs Police Officers Jose "Gil" Gilbert Vega and Lesley Zerebny (AP Photo/Rodrigo Pena)
Palm Springs councilmembers Ginny Foat, far right and J.R. Roberts, hug Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes at the conclusion of a press conference for slain Palm Springs Police Officers Jose "Gil" Gilbert Vega and Lesley Zerebny (AP Photo/Rodrigo Pena)

He'll be sentenced by a judge on Aug. 30.

Palm Springs Officers Lesley Zerebny and Jose "Gil" Vega were killed responding to a call about domestic violence at the home of Felix's mother on Oct. 8, 2016. Prosecutors said Felix opened fire with an AR-15 rifle.

Six other officers were injured as police and Felix exchanged gunfire in the neighborhood more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) east of Los Angeles. Felix was arrested after a lengthy standoff.

"We are gratified with the jury's verdict and this represents a step toward justice for these two fallen officers," District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in a statement Thursday.

Defense attorney John Dolan has contended Felix, an admitted gang member, is intellectually disabled and should not face capital punishment.

Dolan didn't immediately comment on Thursday's jury recommendation.

Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this year announced a moratorium on enforcing the death penalty but the decision does not prevent prosecutors from seeking or judges and juries from imposing death sentences.

Vega, a father of eight, was a 35-year veteran months away from retirement when he was killed. He wasn't scheduled to work the day he died but had volunteered to fill the shift.

Zerebny was a rookie officer just back from maternity leave.

Associated Press
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