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Mothers donate breast milk for baby of slain Palm Springs police officer

Rookie police officer Lesley Zerebny died in the line of duty earlier this month in Palm Springs, Calif. She left behind a 4-month-old daughter.
Rookie police officer Lesley Zerebny died in the line of duty earlier this month in Palm Springs, Calif. She left behind a 4-month-old daughter. Palm Springs Police Department

Rookie police officer Lesley Zerebny cut her maternity leave short after having her first baby to help out at the Palm Springs Police Department, where she’d only worked for a year and a half.

On October 8, she and two other officers responded to a domestic disturbance call. A suspect opened fire on them.

Zerebny, who was 27, and officer Jose Gilbert Vega, 63, who was due to retire in two months, were killed. They were honored at a memorial service on Tuesday, the first officers in the department to die in the line of duty since 1962.

Zerebny left behind a husband, who is a sheriff’s deputy, and her four-month-old daughter Cora.

The news of her death struck particularly close to home for one local mother, who realized that baby Cora might need breast milk. So she contacted Zerebny’s family about donating some — and an entire campaign took off to help the baby.

Claudine Wong of KTVU in San Francisco chronicled what happened next.

In just 24 hours, Inside Edition reported, enough moms had donated enough breast milk — 500 ounces — to feed Cora for the next month. Within a week, the family received enough breast milk to last a year.

The milk, plenty to help the baby transition from breast milk to formula, will be tested and screened before she receives it.

The Palm Springs Police Department announced on its Facebook page it has stopped accepting breast milk donations for baby Cora, but instead are asking mothers to donate to local milk banks in Zerebny's name.

The mother who started the campaign told Wong that she was humbled by the outpouring and “just wanted to do a good thing in a bad situation.”

“As far as I’m concerned, Ashley and the other moms who donated are nothing short of saints and should be given all the praise in the world,” Wong wrote.

“When you hear of a tragedy like this, you want to do something — anything — to ease the pain for the family and help them rebuild their lives with love and care. These moms found a way to harness their mothering spirits (and their breast milk!) to do just that.

“This is not about breast milk or formula, it’s about the human heart and about the desire and the capacity of people to give.”

John Hernandez Felix, 26, faces two counts of murder in the police slayings, NBC Los Angeles reported.

At a community vigil for her sister over the weekend, Britta Boyer said Zerebny loved her job.

“She was meant to be a police officer and you can't go back and wish something different because she was truly happy,” Boyer said.

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