At 12:50 a.m. Sunday, police arrested known gang member John Felix in the killing of two Palm Springs police officers in a 12-hour standoff. Felix, 26, is accused of two counts of murder of a peace officer. More information is anticipated in an 11 a.m. press conference.
The suspect in a Palm Springs shooting that killed two police officers on Saturday was previously sentenced to four years in prison in an attempted gangland assassination .
He was also the subject of a forceful arrest three years ago at the same doorstep where the shooting occurred.
John Hernandez Felix, 26, was previously arrested as part of a failed murder plot in 2009. Felix and another suspect managed to shoot their target but he didn't die. Felix was charged with attempted murder, discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury and association with a criminal street gang.
Court records don't provide details of the shooting, but they do show that Felix pleaded down to assault with a firearm and admitted his gang connection. He was given a two year prison sentence for the assault and an additional two years for his gang ties. His prison term would have expired in 2013.
Felix is the suspect in the killing of two police officers – Jose Gilbert “Gil” Vega and Lesley Zerebny – who were gunned down on the 2700 block of Cypress Road on Saturday afternoon. A third officer, who hasn’t been publicly identified, was wounded. The officers were responding to a domestic disturbance at what appears to be Felix’s father’s house. They were shot at the front door, the police have said.
Felix's goal may have been to kill the officers all along. A neighbor, Frances Serrano, told The Desert Sun she spoke to Felix's father before the shooting, and he said his son had a gun and wanted to kill cops.
Soon after, she heard the gunshots.
Dozens of police then swarmed into the neighborhood, blockading the surrounding streets. Officers with tactical gear and military-style rifles took defensive positions around the house, and an armored vehicle and a bomb-disposal robot were also brought to the scene. Felix was captured alive at about 1 a.m.
By 8 a.m. Sunday, police had withdrawn from much of the neighborhood around the shooting scene, and remained only on a short segment of Cypress Road close to the Felix home.
The swarm of officers with assault rifle and tactical gear were gone, and all that was left was a few sheriff's department vehicles and a small road block manned by a lone deputy.
Motorists idled by on Francis Drive, as slow as they could, straining to see inside the scene of the tragedy that had struck the day before.
There was no estimation for when the street may reopen.
"It will be closed for a while," Riverside County Sheriff's Department spokesman Mike Vasquez said.
The patrol car driven by the two officers who were fatally shot remained at the scene.
The Palm Springs Police and Riverside County Sheriff's departments will together hold the news conference scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday.
It is expected that the conference will focus on the arrest of Felix, said Vasquez, adding he didn't know how much more information will be released as the investigation is still going on.
Three years ago, Felix was arrested by Palm Springs police in an event that began in an eerily similar manner to Saturday's shooting – a policeman on his doorstep.
In that case, a Palm Springs police detective came to the house on Cypress Road looking for Felix's brother. Felix cracked open the front door, and the detective recognized him as a parolee, so he demanded Felix open the door fully so he could be searched. Felix refused.
"I told John multiple times to open the door," wrote Detective Alberto Cantu in a court declaration. "I know that John is a member of a criminal street gang and has been involved in multiple shootings. Due to John's angry and agitated state, and history of violence, I requested dispatch to have an additional unit respond."
As backup arrived, Felix opened the door. Cantu grabbed his wrist, planning to search him for weapons, but Felix tried to pull away. Cantu dragged Felix out of the house, then the detective and another officer got him down on a bench. They were eventually able to force Felix into handcuffs.
He was booked for resisting arrest, but the charge was later dismissed and Felix was convicted of only a disturbance infraction.
Felix has been convicted of disturbing the peace in 2009 and misdemeanor DUI in 2014.
His co-defendant in the gang shooting case, Antonio Madrigal, was convicted of attempted murder at trial and is still in prison. Court documents suggest Madrigal was the actual shooter and Felix assisted.
Felix was arrested early Sunday morning after a lengthy standoff with police.