Slain Officer's Family: ‘Every Day Will Be Hard'

Officer Lesley Zerebny was shot and killed Sunday during a domestic disturbance call in Palm Springs

Blue balloons and ribbons in memory of a Palm Springs officer shot and killed during a standoff lined the street outside her family's home Monday, reminders of a dedicated member of the police community who always stood up for those who needed help.

The parents of 27-year-old rookie Officer Lesley Zerebny, one of two officers fatally shot Sunday, said their daughter followed in her father's footsteps to share her special gifts as a law enforcement officer. 

David Kling worked for 30 years as a California Highway Patrol officer. He pinned the badge on his daughter's uniform when she became a member of the Palm Springs Police Department.

"It's probably the proudest moment in my life, that I was able to do that," said David Kling. "I can still see her walking across that stage with the biggest smile on her face that you've ever seen."

Zerebny was with the department for a year-and-a-half. 

Her husband also works in law enforcement as a member of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

Zerebny, who gave birth to a baby girl four months ago, had just returned to duty from maternity leave. 

"Every holiday will be hard," said mother Luanne Kling. "Every day will be hard."

She grew up in Hemet and attended West Valley High School, where her parents said she was known for helping others.

"When she saw bullying on the school campus, she would step in," said father David Kling. "When new kids came to the school, she would befriend them. She was just that kind of person."

John Hernandez Felix, 26, remained jailed Tuesday without bail at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside on suspicion of shooting and killing veteran training Sgt. Jose Gilbert Vega, 63, and Zerebny. A third officer, who was released from the hospital Sunday, was wounded.

Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said Sunday there is sufficient evidence for at least two special-circumstance allegations -- murder of a police officer and committing multiple murders -- to be filed along with first-degree murder charges against Felix, making him eligible for the death penalty. Felix is expected to make his initial court appearance Thursday. Hestrin said his office would make a decision on whether to seek the death penalty "very quickly," within the next two or three weeks.

Felix was flushed out of his house in the 2700 block of Cypress Avenue at 1 a.m. Sunday by a Riverside County sheriff's SWAT team after a 12-hour standoff. He was wearing soft body armor and carrying multiple magazines of bullets.

Palm Springs police went to the home around 1 p.m. Saturday in response to a woman's call reporting that her adult son was causing a disturbance, police said. According to sheriff's Deputy Mike Vasquez, when the officers arrived, they were informed by one of Felix's family members that he was armed with what authorities described as an assault rifle.

The three Palm Springs officers spoke to Felix through a metal screen door and told him to step outside when he fired on them without provocation or warning, authorities said.

Vega had been with the department for 35 years -- five years past his retirement eligibility -- and had planned to finish his career in December.

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