Police Officer Tony Willi Zeppetella

Police Officer Tony Willi Zeppetella

Oceanside Police Department, California

End of Watch Friday, June 13, 2003

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Tony Willi Zeppetella

Police 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 vehicle in the parking lot of a Navy Federal Credit Union branch at the the intersection of Avenida de la Plata and College Boulevard. As Officer Zeppetella was walking back to his vehicle after contacting the driver, the man opened fire, striking him in the neck. Officer Zeppetella was able to return fire, hitting the suspect once in the leg. After Officer Zeppetella fell, the suspect exited his vehicle, approached him, and pistol whipped him before shooting him again with his own service weapon. The man then stole Officer Zeppetella's patrol car and fled the scene.

Several U.S. Marine Corps and Navy paramedics patronizing the bank at the scene immediately 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 14th, 2005, he was convicted of several charges, including first-degree murder with special circumstances. He was subsequently sentenced to death on February 7th, 2006.

Officer Zeppetella was a U.S. Navy veteran and 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.


  • Age 27
  • Tour 1 year
  • Badge 269
  • Military Veteran

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Handgun
  • Offender Sentenced to death

gang member, traffic stop

Most Recent Reflection

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I pray for the hearts of the family; for their healing and forgiveness. I pray for the man who did this; for remorse and repentance. And I pray for our community; for God to show us how to love and overcome evil with good.

Julie Gilchrist
Oceanside Resident

June 16, 2022

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