PALM SPRINGS, California- Lesley Zerebny and Jose Gilbert “Gil” Vega have been identified as the officers killed today during a domestic disturbance. A third officer was wounded.
Officer Gil Vega is a 35 year-veteran who was due for retirement, he was voluntarily working this shift on overtime.
Officer Lesley Zerebny is a new mom, 27 years old, and a year-and-half veteran who had just returned to duty.
The officers responded to the call at 12:18 p.m. and were at the door of a house when the shooting began.
“It was a simple family disturbance and he elected to open fire on a few of the guardians of our city,” Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes said.
“They were out there every day with boots on the ground for our community,” he added. “They gave it all for you.”
According to the Desert Sun, police were searching for the gunman in the area of Cypress and Del Lago roads and have encouraged residents to stay indoors. Reyes said police had a multi-block perimeter closed off but could not confirm the suspect was inside the area. Multiple officers in tactical gear were taking cover behind a four-foot wall. At 5 p.m., police were using a robot and guided it toward the house.
Several other officers stood by an armored vehicle parked on Cypress Road a block south of Francis Road. A helicopter circled over the neighborhood.
Shortly after the shooting, residents began laying flowers and placing candles outside the police station in an impromptu memorial to the slain officers.
The shooting came four days after a Los Angeles County sheriff’s sergeant was shot and killed in Lancaster while responding to a burglary report, and three months after a gunman killed five officers in Dallas, followed days later by another shooting in Baton Rouge, where three officers were killed.
Nationwide, the number of police shot and killed so far this year is up more than 40 percent from the same time last year, according to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. In addition to the deaths on Saturday, the organization says there have been 43 firearms-related deaths of law enforcement officers in 2016, up from 30 officers slain at this time last year.