PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Just when the Palm Springs Police Department thought they could put 2016 behind them, tragedy struck again. The deaths of two Orlando law enforcement officers is hitting close to home, coming just three months after Palm Springs lost two of its finest.
"It's tough. Our hearts go out to the Orlando police department and anybody involved in that situation," Sgt. William Hutchinson, of the Palm Springs Police Department, told KESQ News Channel 3's and CBS Local 2's Katie Widner.
On Oct. 8, 2016, Palm Springs police officers Jose Gilbert 'Gil' Vega and rookie Leslie Zerebny, who had recently returned to duty from maternity leave, were shot to death after responding to a domestic disturbance call. A third officer was wounded, but survived.
On Monday, two law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in Orlando, Florida, one a woman and mother who was shot to death.
"Obviously, a lot of those circumstances are identical to us losing Lesley," Hutchinson said.
PSPD said their hearts ache for the Florida agencies. Officer Joe Cook, president of the Palm Springs Police Officers' Association, says they plan to lend support to the Orlando PD in any way they can.
"We're going to be reaching out to them and hopefully get some officers out to the memorial services in Florida," Cook said. "It's a hard thing. The scars are there and it will never go away, but hopefully time will help and they have the support of the community like we did here."
That support came in the form of flowers and cards, gifts and thousands of dollars in donations over the past three months. Cook said the outpouring of support and appreciation makes a big difference to the men and women in blue.
"When you see things like that, it just makes you feel good and gives us a purpose for being out everyday," he said.
In honor of National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, which was created by the organization Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), the public is encouraged to thank an officer, share a positive story on social media or install a blue light at their home.
Coachella Valley Residents can lend their support on Feb. 25 by Running from the Law for a Good Cause. It is a family-friendly 5K event that will be held to benefit the Palm Springs Police Officers' Memorial Fund. You can register for the race at runningfromthelaw.racewire.com