Palm Springs

Suspects in Slayings of Peace Officers Had Gun Crime History

The two ex-cons arrested in the killings of three law enforcement officers last week had both been imprisoned within the past decade for violent crimes involving use of guns, and had continued to commit violations while on parole, court records show.

It raises the question: Why were they no longer locked up?

Instead, one has now been charged with the murder of Steve Owen, 53, veteran sergeant for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department.

The other, arrested early Sunday, is expected to be charged with the murders of two Palm Springs Police officers: Jose "Gil" Vega, 63, and Lesley Zerebny, 27.

Zerebny had given birth to her daughter just four months ago. Vega, a father of eight, was only months from retirement, and working overtime on a scheduled day off. Owen had served almost his entire law enforcement career in the Antelope Valley and was known for his youth outreach efforts.

Owen was shot to death Wednesday while attempting to locate the suspect at a burglary call. Now charged with his murder is Trenton Lovell, 27, on parole from a 2008 armed robbery of an off-duty USC public safety officer, at whom Lovell pointed a gun.

Lovell's conviction carried a six year sentence, after credits for 292 days of jail time.  Lovell began serving the prison term on October 2, 2009, according to the records of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Under the Penal Code section 2933, Lovell was entitled to credit for 15 percent of his sentence. Lovell was paroled just under five years later on June 23, 2014.

While on parole last year, Lovell was convicted of misdemeanor driving under the influence causing injury. For that, he was placed on county probation simultaneous with his remaining under the supervision of state parole.

After Owen's death, Sheriff Jim McDonnell spoke of the need to address a system that permits repeated offenders to cycle in and out of custody.

Officers Vega and Zerebny were shot to death Saturday while responding to a domestic violence call. Arrested after a lengthy standoff was John Felix, who had served a prison sentence and was no longer on parole, but still prohibited from possessing guns. He shot the officers through a metal screen door with a "high-powered rifle," according to the Riverside Sheriff's Department.

Felix was convicted in 2010 in a case originally filed as an attempted murder, but plea bargained down to assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to four years, but spent less than half of that time in prison. Felix began serving his priosn term on March 2, 2010, and was paroled just —over 19 months later on October 10, 2011.

Nearly a full year — 334 days — came off Felix's term at time of sentencing, as credit for time already served in jail, reducing the prison component to around three years.

But that was not the only credit Felix could claim.

Under the same penal code section which cut 15 percent from Lovell's armed robbery term, a sentence for the assault crime Felix admitted can be reduced by 50 perent, bringing the three years down to the 17 months he served.

Eleven months after his parole, Felix "absconded," which typically involves failing to stay in contact with his parole agent. A week later, Felix was reported to be "back on parole," according to CDCR records, and he was discharged on May 22, 2015.

While on parole in 2012, Felix had been arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia and was placed on county probation, which expired August 26, barely a month before the slayings of officers Vega and Zerebny.

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