Tour of Duty: 1 year
Badge Number: 269
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: June 13, 2003
Weapon Used: Handgun
Suspect Info: Sentenced to death
Officer Tony Zeppetella was shot and killed after he stopped a vehicle belonging to a known 28-year-old gang member
He had stopped the suspicious vehicle in the branch parking lot of the Navy Federal Credit Union. As Officer Zeppetella was walking back to his vehicle after contacting the suspect, the suspect opened fire, striking him in the neck. Officer Zeppetella was able to return fire, hitting the suspect once in the leg. After the officer was down, the suspect exited his vehicle and went up to the officer, pistol whipped him, and shot him again, this time using the officer's gun. The suspect then stole Officer Zeppetella's patrol car and fled the scene.
Because many members of the armed forces were at the bank, there were several Marine and Navy paramedics at the scene who began administering first aid before Oceanside Fire and Paramedics arrived. Officer Zeppetella was transported to the Palomar Medical Center where he died from his wounds.
The suspect fled to the home of his former in-laws and barricaded himself on the second floor. He surrendered to police after a 4-hour stand-off and was charged with murder.
On November 14, 2005, the suspect was convicted of several charges, including first degree murder with special circumstances. The suspect was sentenced to death on February 7, 2006.
Officer Zeppetella had served with the Oceanside Police Department for 13 months. He is survived by his wife, six-month-old son, parents, brother, and sister.
In January 2006, a section of Highway 76 was dedicated and named the Oceanside Police Officer Tony Zeppetella Memorial Highway.