Suspect in custody 12 hours after fatal shooting of 2 Palm Springs police officers

Two Palm Springs police officers were fatally shot and another wounded Saturday afternoon while responding to a domestic disturbance call, police said.

Just before 1 a.m. Sunday, more than 12 hours after the shooting, the suspect was taken into custody, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said. 

Chief Bryan Reyes said a news conference on the arrest will be held at 11 a.m. 

Police had set up a four-block perimeter in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred, Reyes said. 

The officers went to the scene in the 2700 block of Cypress Road shortly after noon, police said. They tried to make contact with the suspect, who threatened to shoot the officers through the front door. 

“They were responding to a simple family disturbance and [the gunman] elected to open fire,” an emotional Reyes told reporters during an afternoon news conference.  

Reyes identified the two victims as Officer Jose “Gil" Vega, a 35-year veteran of the department who was due to retire in December, and Officer Lesley Zerebny, who is the mother of a 4-month-old. He said the third officer, who was being treated at a hospital, was doing well and was helping investigators.

The Palm Springs Police Department turned the investigation over to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, Reyes said.

“Today Palm Springs lost two of its brave officers,” Reyes said, his voice quivering. "They go out every day with their boots on the ground. They gave their all for you.”

Late Saturday, police used a remote-controlled robot to open the door to the suspect’s house. 

Frances Serrano, who lives on Cypress Road, across the street from where the shooting took place, was coming out of her garage around noon Saturday when her neighbor came bursting out of his own garage.

The man sought Serrano’s attention.

“He said, “Help. I need help. My son is in the house, and he’s crazy. He has a gun. He’s ready to shoot all the police,’ ” Serrano recalled the father saying.  

The father “was very nervous,” Serrano said. “He was afraid of his son.”

Serrano, 65, said she called authorities, and as soon as she began walking back into her house, she heard gunshots, “starting with a loud — I mean really loud — ‘bang!’ ” 

Law enforcement and the suspect appeared to be exchanging gunfire, she said.

“There were police everywhere,” Serrano said. “I looked out the window and saw police with rifles.” Serrano said she remembered her neighbor’s son, who she believed was in his mid-30s, as “a very nice young man — very polite.”

Juan Graciano, 67, who lives a block away from the suspect’s residence, said he saw officers trying to revive Zerebny. He said he was out in the yard about 1 p.m. when he noticed a crowd gathering at the corner of Cypress and Delgado roads.

“I saw a woman officer who had been laid down in the trunk of a police cruiser,” he said. “There were about four officers around her. I watched as they picked her up and laid her down on the street and began administering CPR. A few minutes later paramedics arrived and took her away.”

3:55 p.m. This article was updated with conditions of officers.

3:45 p.m.: This article was updated with new details from police about why officers arrived at the scene. 

3:25 p.m.: The article was updated with reaction from a business owner and other edits.

3:10 p.m.: The article was updated throughout with more details.

This article was originally published at 2:35 p.m.

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