Palm Springs, CA - John Felix, who is charged with murdering Palm Springs Police Officers Jose Gilbert Vega and Leslie Zerebny, had a hearing postponed Friday, because his attorneys claim he is incompetent.
According to The Desert Sun, Friday's preliminary hearing was to determine if there was enough evidence for Felix to proceed to trial, which is standard procedure. However, his attorneys said that they doubted his competence.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Richard A. Erwood ruled that all hearings in the case were suspended until Felix has a competency hearing. He ordered him to be examined by two psychiatrists, who must submit their reports by June 21.
For a defendant to be declared 'mentally incompetent', 'substantial evidence must be shown that Felix does not understand the nature of the criminal proceedings against him and cannot assist his attorneys in his defense.'
In response, prosecutors argued that hearings could still continue while Felix is being evaluated, if he were seen by a court psychiatrist
The murder of Palm Springs Police Officers Jose Gilbert Vega and Leslie Zerebny occurred October 8, 2016, at Felix's residence in the 2700 block of Cypress Avenue. Five Palm Springs police officers, including veteran training Officer Jose Gilbert Vega, age 63, and Officer Leslie Zerebny, age 27, responded to a family disturbance call.
Felix opened fire through the metal screen door of his residence as the officers arrived and fatally shot Officer Vega and Officer Zerebny. A third Palm Springs Police Officer was wounded but has since recovered.
He fired at two other police officers who responded to assist. A 12-hour stand-off followed, with Felix barricading himself in his residence before being taken into custody. He was wearing body armor and Officer Vega and Officer Zerebny were shot with armor-piercing rounds from his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.
Both police officers were transported to the hospital, where they later died.
John Felix was charged with two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. The murder charges are eligible for the death penalty, due to the special conditions that were met of murder of a law enforcement officer, lying in wait, and taking multiple lives in the same crime.
District Attorney Mike Hestrin said there is no doubt that these police officers were targeted. He said, "This individual knew what he was doing. His actions were deliberate. He attacked these officers for no other reason than they were there, answering a call for service."
Palm Springs Police Officer Vega had been with the agency for 35 years, five years past his retirement eligibility, and had planned to retire in December, 2017.
Palm Springs Police Officer Leslie Zerebny had been with the department for a year, and had just returned to duty after having a daughter four months earlier.
John Felix's criminal history includes convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, where he was sentenced to two years in prison for a 2009 crime that originally drew an attempted murder charge. He has also been convicted of street gang activity.
That's right, he was arrested for attempted murder and only served two years before he was back on the street to ambush police officers.
After he was released from prison, he was arrested for resisting arrest on the street where he lived. At the time of the shooting, he was on probation for a conviction for driving under the influence.
Felix's use of body armor, armor-piercing bullets, lying in wait, and deliberately attacking the officers when they were most vulnerable does not indicate mental incompetency to me. His history of convictions involving violence show that the only thing incompetent is the court system.
Do you think that John Felix should be sentenced to death if he's insane? We'd like to hear what you think. Please let us know in the comments.