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Jury recommends death penalty in ambush killing of Palm Springs police officers

FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2016 file pool photo, John Hernandez Felix confers with his attorney Michael
John Hernandez Felix, pictured in 2016, will be sentenced Aug. 30 for murder and attempted murder.
(Kurt Miller / Associated Press)

A jury Thursday recommended death for a man convicted of killing two Palm Springs police officers and wounding six others in an ambush-style attack in 2016.

The same jury that convicted 28-year-old John Hernandez Felix of murder and attempted murder earlier this month recommended capital punishment, according to the Riverside County district attorney’s office.

He’ll be sentenced by a judge on Aug. 30.

Officers Lesley Zerebny and Jose “Gil” Vega were killed responding to a call about domestic violence at the home of Felix’s mother on Oct. 8, 2016. Prosecutors said Felix opened fire with an AR-15 rifle.

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Six other officers were wounded as police and Felix exchanged gunfire. Felix was arrested after a lengthy standoff.

“We are gratified with the jury’s verdict and this represents a step toward justice for these two fallen officers,” Dist. Atty. Mike Hestrin said in a statement Thursday.

Defense attorney John Dolan has contended that Felix, an admitted gang member, is intellectually disabled and should not face capital punishment.

Dolan didn’t immediately comment on the jury’s recommendation.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom this year announced a moratorium on enforcing the death penalty, but the decision does not prevent prosecutors from seeking or judges and juries from imposing death sentences.

Vega, a father of eight, was a 35-year veteran months away from retirement when he was killed. He wasn’t scheduled to work the day he died but had volunteered to fill the shift.

Zerebny was a rookie officer just back from maternity leave.


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