Two police officers trying to resolve a family dispute in California have been shot dead when a man who they had been speaking calmly with suddenly pulled out a gun and opened fire.
A third officer in Palm Springs was wounded in the incident on Saturday.
The shooter was not immediately apprehended.
“It was a simple family disturbance and he elected to open fire on a few of the guardians of the city,” police Chief Bryan Reyes, his voice breaking, told reporters.
The chief, near tears, identified the slain officers as Jose “Gil” Gilbert Vega and Lesley Zerebny.
Police said Zerebny recently returned to the force from maternity leave four months after giving birth to a daughter. Vega, the father of eight, was a 35-year veteran who planned to retire in December. The wounded officer’s name was not released.
Reyes said the three officers were standing near the front door speaking with the man, “trying to negotiate with the suspect to just comply”, when he suddenly shot them.
He said the shooter was not apprehended and may still be in the house.
He said Riverside County sheriff’s SWAT officers had the residence surrounded and were now leading the investigation.
Reyes also urged the media and others not to stream live video of police officers’ movements on social media, adding it could put them in danger.
“Understand that we’re actively looking for a cop murderer,” he said.
Dozens of law enforcement officers converged on the normally quiet residential neighbourhood in this desert resort city after the shooting. They sealed off several blocks and evacuated some residents.
Police Sergeant William Hutchinson said officers were warning people already inside their homes to stay there, lock their doors and not answer them until further notice.