Officer Shot and Killed in Palm Springs Lived in Oceanside

Lesley Zerebny, 27, had just gone back to work after maternity leave with her now 4-month old daughter.

The family of a Palm Springs Police officer shot and killed early Sunday say their daughter loved life.

Officer Lesley Zerebny, 27, was one of the three officers injured in the shooting while responding to a report of a family disturbance in Palm Springs. Zerebny and Officer Jose Gilbert Vega died in the hospital.

Zerebny had just returned to work after maternity leave with her now four-month old daughter Cora.

NBC 7 spoke to Zerebny's family on Monday, who told us she had worked as a food server at Davino's Cabo Grill in Oceanside several years ago. They say she loved to surf.

Her father, David Kling served as a California Highway Patrol officer for 30 years. He says his daughter followed in his footsteps to join law enforcement because she wanted to help people.

“I'm retired but I got to go up in my uniform and pin the badge on her chest and it's probably the proudest moment of my life that I was able to do that," Kling said, speaking of the day Zerebny joined PSPD a year and a half ago. "I can still see her walking across the stage with the biggest smile you've ever seen."

Her family, who lives up in Hemet says Zerebny used to love surfing in Oceanside. 

"Just loved life, loved the things we did as a family--camping, living here, surfing just everything," Kling said.

Brett Poorman, owner of Davino's Cabo Grill also spoke with NBC 7 on Monday. He says he still cannot believe that his former employee and friend is gone.

"She had an infectious smile. She had a great personality, she made friends easily with co-workers. She was just overall a great person," Poorman said.

He hired Zerebny in 2012, and says he knew from the very beginning, she was someone special.

"A lot of people, they get stuck in a rut and they don't try to better themselves and move on from here. She was one of the ones that moved on and made something of herself," he told NBC 7.

Zerebeny's father added that she had always been someone who stepped in to help others, even as a child.

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

The family says Zerebny had graduated from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department Academy. She was married to a deputy from Riverside County.

She is survived by her husband and four-month old daughter.

John Felix, 26, of Palm Springs, was arrested after a 12-hour standoff with officers. He was booked in jail on two counts of murder on a peace officer. The Riverside County District Attorney's office was expected to file murder charges.

Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin said Felix may be eligible for the death penalty.

Contact Us