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Suspect arrested in killing of LA County sheriff's deputy in Palmdale

Richard Winton, Nathan Solis and Grace Toohey, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — A 29-year-old man was arrested early Monday 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.

After deputies released information Sunday about a “vehicle of interest” in the slaying of Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer, Sheriff Robert Luna said a tip from the community led investigators to a home in east Palmdale, where Kevin Cataneo Salazar was arrested early Monday.

“Thirty six hours after the murder of our deputy, the men and women of our department arrested [the suspect] early this morning,” Luna said Monday morning at a press conference. “We believe we have the murderer of our deputy in custody.”

Special enforcement, or SWAT, deputies took Cataneo Salazar into custody after an hourslong standoff, during which Cataneo Salazar barricaded himself in his family’s home.

“They deployed chemical agents and the suspect ultimately surrendered,” Luna said.

Luna said deputies recovered numerous firearms as well as the Toyota Corolla that was linked to the brazen killing. The vehicle was captured on surveillance video pulling up beside Clinkunbroomer’s marked sheriff’s vehicle before driving away. Clinkunbroomer had been fatally shot in the head.

Julio Cruz was visiting his mom in the Palmdale neighborhood where Cataneo Salazar was detained. He said he heard police activity starting around 1 a.m. Monday, and then, about an hour later, he heard officers shoot out the windows of the two-story house, when the man finally came out around 5 a.m. He also heard what sounded like loud bangs and saw smoke coming from the home.

“We heard police talking over the bullhorn and they were saying, ‘Kevin, come out. Surrender,’” Cruz said.

Cruz said his family noticed a lot of cars pulling into the cul-de-sac on Sunday. They think they were likely those of undercover law enforcement officers.

Cataneo Salazar has admitted to killing the deputy, according to multiple sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation.

The surveillance video that captured the killing shows 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.

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 was 30 years old.


“Ryan’s family will never see him again,” Luna said Monday, visibly choking up as he spoke. Clinkunbroomer was a third-generation sheriff’s deputy who had recently gotten engaged.

Dozens gathered at the Palmdale station Monday morning in front of a makeshift memorial for the slain deputy. Law enforcement wore black bands over their badges and civilians wore blue ribbons on their shirts and lapels.

“Our son Ryan was a dedicated and hardworking deputy sheriff who enjoyed working here at the Palmdale station,” the deputy’s family said in a statement. “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.”

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

Marle Salazar, the 29-year-old’s mother, said her son was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia about five years ago. She said she’s had to call law enforcement at least twice when he’s become too aggressive and hears voices after not taking his medication. It wasn’t clear if investigators believe his mental illness was related to the shooting.

Luna said Monday the suspect’s mental health doesn’t change the tragedy of losing a deputy.

“If I had to go to your family and tell them that you were not coming home and you were just murdered, [it] doesn’t matter what the person was thinking or their condition,” Luna said.

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.”

The Assn. of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs called for the person responsible to face the full extent of prosecution. Luna said that he spoke with the district attorney’s office Monday morning and was assured that “they will aggressively pursue this case.”

“Ryan’s death is a blow to our law enforcement family, many of whom knew and loved both Ryan and his family,” the association said in a statement.

The association’s C.A.R.E.S. Foundation will be giving all donations for the next 30 days to Clinkunbroomer’s family.


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