America’s war on police intensified Saturday night when three officers were shot and two were killed while responding to a domestic-disturbance call in Palm Springs, Calif.
Jose Gilbert Vega, a 35-year-veteran of the Palm Springs police force who was working an overtime shift and another officer, a new mother, Lesly Zerebny, 27, were killed when an assailant fired through the door with a hail of rounds, described by witnesses as sounding like a machine gun.
Another officer was wounded, Police Chief Bryan Reyes said.
“The officers, from what I understand, were at the front (door) trying to negotiate with the suspect to just comply,” said Police Chief Bryan Reyes. “It was a simple family disturbance and he elected to open fire on … guardians of this city.”
The suspect has not been captured, Reyes said. Police have surrounded the house and “they’re going to treat the house as if he’s still in it,” the chief said.
“Today Palm Springs lost two brave officers. They go out every day and put their boots on the ground for everybody in this community. They gave it all for you,” the chief added.
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.”
By 5:50 p.m. with police on every street corner and officers in helicopters overhead continuing their search, Serrano said she was “really scared,” and had locked her windows and doors.
“Some are saying [the suspect] is still in the father’s house. Others say he’s on the run,” she said. “I knew there were problems before between the father and this young man. But I never imagined he would do something like this. I don’t want to believe it.
“I feel so sad for the officers,” she added. “It’s like a nightmare.”
This is the latest shooting of multiple police officers in the United States.
On July 17, three officers were killed and three wounded by a gunman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. About a week earlier, a gunman killed five officers and wounded seven in Dallas.
Palm Springs, a city of about 45,000 residents, is 100 miles east of Los Angeles.