Two Palm Springs Police Officers Killed, One Just Back To Work From Maternity Leave

The Palm Springs Police Department confirmed that two of their officers have been shot and killed and another wounded in response to a domestic disturbance call. Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes choked back tears as he spoke with media, flanked by picture of the fallen officers.

“I am awake in a nightmare right now,” Reyes said of the death of two of his police officers.

The Palm Springs Police Department identified the deceased officers as Jose Gilbert Vega, a 35-year veteran who had picked up an extra shift and Lesley Zerebny, a 27-year-old officer with only 18-months on with Palm Springs PD, who had just returned to work from maternity leave. Officer Zerebny’s infant is only 4-months-old. Officer Vega was scheduled to retire in December. Officer Zerebny was married to a Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy.

According to local Palm Springs newspaper The Desert Sun, the police officers responded to a residence at 12:18 p.m. regarding a “domestic disturbance.” According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Officers Vega and Zerebny approached the front door of the home and the suspect began firing. Witnesses describe it as “machine gun” fire.

Palm Springs police is still attempting to apprehend the suspect who has barricaded himself in the residence. Reports have also surfaced that the suspect may have shot members of his own family during his rampage, but these have yet to be confirmed. The condition of the wounded officer was not yet available but they were said to be alert and talking.

A neighbor of the suspect stated that the shooting suspect’s father had spoken to him indicating that his son had mental health issues and was armed with a gun and stating he wanted to shoot police officers. A short time later, the neighbor heard shots ring out.

SWAT members surround the home of a suspect who killed two Palm Springs police officers. Photo by Rodrigo Peña/AP
SWAT members surround the home of a suspect who killed two Palm Springs police officers. Photo by Rodrigo Peña/AP

Doctor Who actor John Barrowman lives just a few hundred yards from the scene of the shooting. He took to his Twitter to express his sorrow and shock over the shootings of the quiet Palm Springs neighborhood as well as thanks to the police department.

Today’s shooting in Palm Springs marks the third police officer killed in the line of duty this week in California alone. Earlier this week, a San Diego police officer was shot in the face and killed after a routine traffic stop.

Though statistics on the Officer Down Memorial Page indicate that line-of-duty deaths for police officers are down by 1 percent, line-of-duty deaths due to gunfire are actually up 57 percent from last year. Several officers have been killed or injured in 2016 in ambush-style attacks, including multiple fatalities in Dallas and Baton Rouge this past summer.

The increased violence against police officers comes on the heels of public outcry regarding systematic racism and use of force concerns in the wake of several police shootings involving black men. The topic has been a hot button issue for presidential candidates with a mixed response. Donald Trump suggested “stop and frisk” policing become acceptable and prevalent, while Hillary Clinton vaguely outlined a plan for police training reform and gun control policies. No one seems to have a definitive plan that can help mend the distrust, however, and the blood continues to spill and the violence goes on.

[Featured Image by Rodrigo Peña/AP Photo]