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Person of interest detained in ambush killing of LA County sheriff's deputy in Palmdale

Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — A person of interest has been detained in the ambush killing of a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy who was shot in the head near the Palmdale station Saturday night, officials said Monday morning.

Few details have been released, but law enforcement sources told The Times authorities launched a massive manhunt after the brazen killing, leading to an East Palmdale neighborhood. Heavily armed deputies in tactical gear took a man into custody during the overnight operation, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Sheriff Robert Luna was expected to provide more details at a news conference scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Monday.

The Saturday killing had been captured on surveillance video, which was shared with The Times.

The video shows Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer steering his patrol cruiser onto Sierra Highway and stopping at a red light outside the Palmdale sheriff's station north of Los Angeles. Clinkunbroomer was in uniform and on duty.

Seconds later, a dark gray Toyota Corolla can be seen pulling up behind the marked black-and-white cruiser and pausing.

The sedan then pulls alongside the driver's side of the cruiser, pauses again, then speeds off. Clinkunbroomer's vehicle drifts a foot or two.

In those seconds, authorities said, the deputy was shot in the head. He died from his injuries hours later. Clinkunbroomer was 30 years old.

Investigators worked through the night and all day Sunday reviewing evidence, including surveillance footage, and interviewing potential witnesses. Law enforcement officials at the local, state and federal levels had offered assistance. On Sunday, they cited the Corolla, manufactured between 2006 and 2012, as a "vehicle of interest."

The person was detained after the vehicle description circulated and authorities received a tip, two law enforcement sources told The Times on condition of anonymity Monday.

No motive for the killing has been revealed. The detained person was described according to a sheriff's call code as suffering from diminished mental capacity, according to two law enforcement sources.

Investigators are examining whether the person was involved in a prior road rage incident shortly before the deadly shooting, according to the law enforcement sources.


Deputies with the LASD's special enforcement team removed the man from the home in East Palmdale, forcing him to take off his shirt before handcuffing him, sources said.

Hours later, just before 9 a.m., a Toyota Corolla matching the vehicle of interest in the case was loaded onto a flatbed truck and removed from the neighborhood.

Luna on Sunday called the slaying a "targeted act" and asserted that Clinkunbroomer might have been killed because he worked in law enforcement.

"Somebody decided to shoot and murder him, I'm assuming at this point, because he was in uniform," Luna said.

A passerby found the deputy unconscious in his vehicle at Avenue Q and Sierra Highway around 6 p.m., officials said. Fellow deputies took him to Antelope Valley Medical Center in Lancaster, and he died as physicians attempted to treat his gunshot wound.

Clinkunbroomer joined the department eight years ago and had been based at the Palmdale station since 2018. For the last 18 months, he worked as a field training officer, a position that Luna said was for the "best of the best." Clinkunbroomer's family was steeped in law enforcement, and he was the third generation to work for the Sheriff's Department.

Luna said that four days before his death, the deputy had proposed to his fiancee.

"His father served with us. His grandfather served with us," Luna said. "He had so much ahead of him, and this coward, or cowards, took his life while he was sitting at a red light, waiting to serve his community."

"He had a good heart," said a colleague in the Sheriff's Department who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. "Nobody has anything bad to say about him because he treated people and the public with respect."


Staff writer Grace Toohey contributed to this report.

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