PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Two officers are dead and another was injured after responding to a domestic dispute Saturday afternoon in southern California.
It happened around 12:18 p.m. Pacific Time in the 2700 block of 2700 block of Cypress Grove Road in North Palm Springs. Police Chief Bryan Reyes said three officers responded to a 911 call from woman who reported her adult son was at her house causing a disturbance. The officer arrived to the home and spoke with the suspect through the front door. Chief Reyes said the suspect refused to come outside and threatened to shoot the officers through the door. Ten minutes after the officer arrived on the scene, the chief said there was a radio message for help and that shot had been fired.
Gerardo Barrera told The Desert Sun newspaper (http://desert.sn/2eeooxy ) he was working nearby when he heard gunshots. "I saw a person on the ground," he said. "Someone kept pumping her chest but she wasn't moving."
All three officers were rushed to Desert Regional Medical Center where two of the officers, identified as 27-year-old Lesley Zerebny and Jose Gilbert “Gil” Vega, a 35-year veteran on the force.
"Today, Palm Springs lost two brave officers. They go out every day; they put their boots on the ground for everybody in this community. They gave it all for you," Chief Reyes said visibly fighting back his emotions during a press conference later in the afternoon.
Reyes called the two “Guardians of our city” as he gave a room full of reporters details on the two officers, all the while fighting back tears. He said Vega, who was due to retire in December, wasn’t even supposed to be working that shift and had chosen to work the overtime. He is survived by his wife and eight children. Zerebny had worked on the force for a year and a half. She is survived by her husband and 4-month-old child.
“I’m awake in a nightmare right now. That’s me. But as the chief of police for this police department I got to step forward and stay focused,” the chief said.
The third officer, whose name has not yet been released, is alert and working with investigators on the case from his hospital room.
Chief Reyes would not release the name of the suspect as he had turned over the shooting investigation to county law enforcement. He said several blocks surrounding the home were evacuated while officers swept the area for the suspect. Special tactical units and police helicopters from multiple law enforcement agencies combed the area well into the evening for the suspect. Any residents still in the area were advised to lock doors and windows and stay well inside.
The shooting comes days after a Los Angeles County sheriff's sergeant was shot and killed in the high desert town of Lancaster.
Sgt. Steve Owen was answering a burglary call when sheriff's officials say he was shot and wounded by a man who then stood over him and shot him four more times.
A paroled robber has been charged with the murder.
The Associated Press contributed to this report