PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — When officer Jose “Gil” Vega was killed in the line of duty on Oct. 8, he left behind eight children.
His youngest daughter, Vanessa, is 8 years old and missed two weeks of school after his death.
When the fourth-grader was getting ready to return to class, she found a surprise waiting outside her house.
More than a dozen officers in uniform were there to pick her up and take her to school.
On what had to be one of the hardest mornings of her young life, the officers made sure Vanessa knew she could count on her law enforcement family.
“We can’t walk away. She has a whole new family to rely on,” Police Sgt. William Hutchinson told the Desert Sun.
Hutchinson told the Desert Sun that several more of her father’s fellow officers wanted to be there, but they were concerned that too many police vehicles might snarl traffic around the school.
The officers escorted Vanessa all the way to her classroom, where she flashed a smile for a photograph.
Vanessa’s father was a 35-year veteran of the force and was killed two months before he was due to retire.
He and officer Lesley Zerebny, 27, were among the first to respond to a domestic disturbance call.
The man shot at police from behind the closed front door, killing Vega and Zerebny, police said.
The suspect, John Felix, 26, was arrested about 12 hours after the fatal shootings and later charged with two counts of murder. Prosecutors said they plan to seek the death penalty, KABC reported.