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Murder investigation underway after LASD deputy shot and killed in Palmdale

Murder investigation underway after LASD deputy killed
Murder investigation underway after LASD deputy killed 02:20

The man suspected in the fatal ambush shooting of a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy was jailed without bail and is awaiting word on possible criminal charges, while his family insisted he is not a "coward," as the sheriff called him, but is mentally ill and not in his right mind.

Kevin Cataneo Salazar, 29, was arrested early Monday morning at his family's home in Palmdale following an hours-long standoff with law enforcement and a manhunt that began Saturday night, shortly after the slaying of Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer near the department's Palmdale station.

Clinkunbroomer, a 30-year-old, third-generation deputy who was only recently engaged to be married, was shot around 6 p.m. Saturday while sitting in his patrol car at a traffic light near the station at Sierra Highway and East Avenue Q. Video from the scene shows a dark-colored sedan pulling up behind the patrol SUV, then slowly pulling alongside the driver's side of the deputy's vehicle, pausing, then driving away.

Sheriff's officials said a good Samaritan stopped to render aid after the shooting and the wounded deputy was taken to Antelope Valley Medical Center in grave condition. He was pronounced dead that night. 

Early Monday morning, sheriff's deputies in tactical gear and armored vehicles descended on Salazar's family home, initiating a standoff that finally ended when Special Enforcement Bureau personnel flushed him out with "chemical agents," Sheriff Robert Luna said at a Monday news conference.

Luna said "numerous firearms" were also recovered following the arrest, and that deputies seized a dark-colored sedan that was believed to be linked to the killing.

"Thirty-six hours after the murder of our deputy, the men and women of our department arrested him early this morning," Luna said Monday. A dark-colored sedan appearing to match the description of the Toyota Corolla sheriff's officials said pulled alongside Clinkunbroomer's patrol vehicle at the time of the shooting was also towed away from the suspect's home.

Salazar was being held without bail at the Twin Towers jail in downtown Los Angeles. Pending a decision on charges by the District Attorney's Office, he was tentatively scheduled to appear in court Wednesday in Lancaster. The Los Angeles Times, citing unnamed law enforcement sources, reported that Salazar had confessed to the killing.

Luna said Clinkunbroomer was "murdered, ambushed by a coward." But Salazar's mother and sister told reporters he is mentally ill.

"My brother, he's getting called a coward," Salazar's sister, Jessica, told reporters Monday. "He wasn't in his right state of mind."

"I do want you guys to know that my brother did have schizophrenia," she said. "He has paranoia. He heard voices. We're not justifying, we don't know if he did (the shooting), if he did not. We are not justifying anything. We feel for the family. It hurts.
"Nobody wishes to go through that. There are a lot of people that know, have family members with the same situation will understand how it is so hard to want to help a loved one and knowing that their mind is not at the right state of mind."

She said her family is praying for the Clinkunbroomer family, but added there are "two sides to the story." "Just please, don't punish him like if he was a regular person. He's sick," she said.

Luna's mother, Marle Salazar, also told reporters her son was mentally ill and had stopped taking his medication, but they were unable to get him the help that he needed. She told the Los Angeles Times the family called sheriff's deputies at least twice because he refused to take his medication, but she was told there was nothing they could do.

She also told the paper that her son was never violent or aggressive toward anyone else, but tried twice to take his own life because of the persistent voices he would hear in his head. She said her son was acting normally Saturday night at home after the shooting occurred.

Salazar actually attended a vigil Sunday night outside the sheriff's Palmdale station in honor of the slain deputy.

Whether Salazar's mental state will have any impact on a criminal case against him was unclear. Luna, speaking at a news conference Monday, suggested it should not make a difference.

"Whether mental health is a factor or not, think about this. If I had to go to your family and tell that you were not coming home and you were just murdered, does it matter?" Luna said.

Also Monday, Luna hailed the professionalism shown by deputies involved in the barricade situation that led to Salazar's arrest, despite knowing the man may have killed one of their own.

"Those special enforcement deputies took the time to try to deescalate this and take this individual peacefully into custody, when they knew our deputy was not afforded the same opportunity," Luna said.

"He never gave our deputy a chance, but yet our men and women gave this individual a chance to take him into custody peacefully. That's the difference between professionals and individuals out there who are targeting not only community members but more importantly law enforcement out on the street."

Luna said a motive for the killing remains a mystery. "We don't know yet, but we intend to find out," the sheriff said. He said tips from the public led investigators to Salazar. The Times reported that a man who had allegedly been involved in a road-rage confrontation with Salazar was among those who contacted authorities.

At Monday's news conference, Luna read a statement from Clinkunbroomer's family. "Our son Ryan was a dedicated hard-working deputy sheriff who enjoyed working here at the Palmdale station," according to the family. "He was proud to work along the side of his partners that he considered brothers and sisters as he sacrificed daily to better the community that he served. Ryan made the ultimate sacrifice in doing so. Ryan was recently engaged to the love of his life. As our first-born son, Ryan will be greatly missed by his family, friends and the sheriff's department as a whole. Please keep Ryan's family, friends and colleagues in your prayers and respect everyone's privacy during our time of mourning."

Luna again urged residents who may have information related to the shooting to come forward.

"I want to stress that our investigators are still actively working this case," he said. "There's more information that we probably don't know at this time. Every piece of evidence, everything we have, will be analyzed and I do want to stress to our community that although we are extremely confident that we have the right (person) in custody, I am still asking people to come forward and give us any piece of information that they believe that they have.

"Why? Because the arrest is only one part of this. We have to get this individual prosecuted now to the full extent of the law, and we need the public's continued help and support in doing that."

Anyone who witnessed anything related to the shooting was urged to call the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500, or Crime Stoppers at 800- 222-TIPS (8477).

In response to the killing, multiple agencies announced on Sunday they were offering rewards for information leading to the killer. The county and city of Palmdale each offered $100,000, while ALADS put up another $50,000 in reward money.

Last week, Clinkunbroomer's mother, Kim Etzel Clinkunbroomer, posted several photos of her son Instagram with the message: "We are so excited to add to our family. Congrats to our son Ryan and his fiancé Brittany."

The last Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy shot and killed in the line of duty was Sgt. Steve Owen, 53, a 29-year department veteran who worked out of the Lancaster station and was shot while investigating a reported break-in on Oct. 5, 2016.

Deputy Alejandro Martinez died July 28, several months after he was struck by a wrong-way vehicle while training with dozens of colleagues near the sheriff's STARS Explorer Academy law enforcement training center in Whittier in November 2022. The driver, 22-year-old Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez of Diamond Bar, told reporters that he fell asleep at the wheel.

Deputy Steve Belanger died on Feb. 6, 2018, from a gunshot wound sustained on Dec. 10, 1994, when he was ambushed while conducting a traffic stop in the 18400 block of La Guardia Street in Rowland Heights. Doctors were unable to remove the bullet from Belanger's brain, and he remained under constant medical care and confined to a wheelchair until he died.

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