Psych evaluation ordered for suspect in cops’ slayings


USA Today Network
Brett Kelman, The (Palm Springs, Calif.) Desert Sun
9:15 p.m. EDT October 13, 2016

  • Murder charges filed against accused Palm Springs cop killer

    Murder charges filed against accused Palm Springs cop killer

  • Reporters answer questions on slain Palm Springs officers

    Reporters answer questions on slain Palm Springs officers

  • Suspect in Palm Springs police officers shooting: What we know now

    Suspect in Palm Springs police officers shooting: What we know now

  • Palm Springs police shooting kills two officers: A 35-year vet near retirement and a new mom

    Palm Springs police shooting kills two officers: A 35-year vet near retirement and a new mom

  • Palm Springs mourn fallen officers

    Palm Springs mourn fallen officers

  • Palm Springs police chief: 'They gave it all for you'

    Palm Springs police chief: ‘They gave it all for you’

  • Palm Springs police chief shares stories of fallen officers

    Palm Springs police chief shares stories of fallen officers

  • Palm Springs PD give briefing on fatal shooting

    Palm Springs PD give briefing on fatal shooting

  • Palm Springs PD press conference on fatal police shooting

    Palm Springs PD press conference on fatal police shooting

  • Officer-involved shooting in Palm Springs

    Officer-involved shooting in Palm Springs

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — A man who allegedly targeted police officers in a planned ambush pleaded not guilty to all charges Thursday in a brief court hearing in Indio.

John Hernandez Felix, 26, allegedly shot three Palm Springs police officers, killing two of them, on Saturday. He then barricaded himself in his family home for 12 hours before finally being captured by a SWAT team.

Felix appeared in a dark-colored dress shirt and shackles at Thursday’s arraignment and only spoke to answer yes or no questions.

Felix’s public defender Michael Rowlands argued the arraignment should be delayed for Felix to undergo a competency assessment, which would “help defense determine what an appropriate plea will be.”

“We need to get that done before we decide which way we are going to proceed on this matter,” Rowlands said.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Victoria Cameron confirmed the assessment, which will take place at a later date. After the assessment or “competency check,” Felix would be allowed to change his not guilty plea.

John Hall, spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s office, said after the hearing that the competency assessment is a “general psychological evaluation” that could be introduced as evidence in the case. It is not the assessment to determine whether someone could be declared not guilty by reason of insanity.

Rowlands also argued that allowing cameras into the arraignment would produce prejudice against his client. Widespread media attention has already had a prejudicial effect, he said.

The prosecutor in the case, Michelle Paradise, argued that cameras in the courtroom are “no more prejudicial than a mugshot or jumpsuit.”

Judge Cameron overruled Rowlands’ argument, allowing cameras into the courtroom.

About two dozen of the victims’ family members sat in the courtroom during the arraignment, joined by a dozen Palm Springs police officers. None of Felix’s family members were present.

Felix was not granted bail. His next court date is Nov. 10 for a felony settlement conference.

The DA’s office spoke up about Felix’s motive at Wednesday’s press conference announcing the charges against him

“This individual wanted to kill police officers,” county DA Mike Hestrin said at the time. “That’s the motive. He wanted to gun down police officers because they wore the uniform.”

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Felix would be eligible for the death penalty. Hestrin said Wednesday his office will decide whether to seek it in about three weeks.

“We want to know everything about this individual,” Hestrin said. “We’re not ready to make that decision.”

Felix has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder, with enhancements filed on each charge for the use of body armor and armor-piercing bullets. Felix was also charged with illegal possession of an assault weapon and possession of a stolen firearm.

Police came to Felix’s home responding to a 911 call reporting a domestic disturbance. At the scene, officers spoke to Felix through the metal screen door at the front of the house, and then the suspect opened fire on the officers without warning. His weapon was an AR-15 rifle with high-capacity magazines, authorities have said. The serial number on the gun had been shaved off.

An AR-15 can be legally owned in some circumstances in California, but not by Felix, who was already a convicted felon.

The officers killed were Jose “Gil” Vega, a 35-year veteran with eight children, and Lesley Zerebny, a rookie who had recently given birth to a daughter. A third officer was wounded but survived.

A public memorial for the officers is planned for Tuesday at the Palm Springs Convention Center. As many as 20,000 mourners are expected.

Felix, a known member of the Varrio Las Palmas gang, was previously convicted in 2009 shooting case but served only 18 months. In that case, Felix and fellow gang members wounded a member of a rival gang during a drive-by shooting. Felix was accused of attempted murder, but pleaded the case down to assault with a firearm.

Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/2ec0hvs



Source link

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*