Police Arrest 29-Year-Old in Ambush Shooting of Los Angeles County Deputy

A 29-year-old man was arrested early Monday morning in the ambush-style killing of a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy over the weekend, the authorities announced hours after engaging in a standoff at a Southern California home.

The deputy, Ryan Clinkunbroomer, 30, who was on duty and in uniform, was shot on Saturday night while his vehicle was stopped at a red light shortly after leaving a police station in Palmdale, a city north of Los Angeles. The killing was captured on surveillance video and led to a major manhunt over the weekend.

Acting on tips from community members, sheriff’s deputies arrested a man they identified as Kevin Cataneo Salazar on suspicion of killing Deputy Clinkunbroomer, according to Robert Luna, the sheriff of Los Angeles County.

Sheriff Luna said at a news conference on Monday that after members of the suspect’s family came out of a home in Palmdale, Mr. Cataneo Salazar barricaded himself inside for several hours. Officers tried to use hostage negotiators to no avail, and then deployed chemical agents to draw him outside.

“He never gave our deputy a chance, but yet our men and women gave this individual a chance to take him into custody peacefully,” Sheriff Luna said at the news conference.

After the shooting, officials described a dark gray Toyota Corolla made between 2006 and 2012 as a “vehicle of interest,” and they announced a $250,000 reward for information leading to a suspect’s arrest and prosecution. Sheriff Luna said on Monday that news media reports, which circulated photos and a description of the vehicle, were helpful in eliciting the tips that led to the arrest.

The vehicle in question, as well as several firearms, were taken by investigators at the house, Sheriff Luna said.

Deputy Clinkunbroomer, who was transferred to the Palmdale station in July 2018, had worked in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for about eight years, following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, officials said. For the past year and a half, he also trained and supervised other deputies. “Not just anybody becomes a field training officer,” Sheriff Luna said over the weekend. “It’s usually the best of the best.”

“Our son Ryan was a dedicated, hardworking deputy sheriff who enjoyed working here at the Palmdale station,” the family of Deputy Clinkunbroomer said in a statement that Sheriff Luna read on Monday. “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.”

Deputy Clinkunbroomer had gotten engaged only four days earlier, Sheriff Luna added.

The Sheriff’s Department has not determined a motive in the shooting, and homicide investigators are still asking questions. Sheriff Luna said on Monday that he had assumed the deputy was targeted for being a law enforcement officer, “but our intent is to find out.”

According to statistics released by the F.B.I. concerning officers killed in the line of duty, five have died this year through August in situations designated as “ambushes.” Twelve officers were killed on the job in such situations in all of last year; eight were killed in 2021 and nine in 2020.

Marle Salazar, the mother of the man arrested on Monday, said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times that her son had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia about five years ago. She added that she had called deputies to respond in the past when he had become too aggressive after not taking his medication.

“That’s all part of the investigation,” Sheriff Luna said.

“Whether mental health is a factor or not,” he added, “think about this: If I had to go to your family and tell them that you were not coming home and that you were just murdered, does it matter what the person was thinking, or their condition?”

Palmdale has a recent history of tension between law enforcement officers and the community. In 2015, the U.S. Justice Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced a settlement involving policing changes in Palmdale and the nearby city of Lancaster after an investigation found patterns of excessive use of force, biased practices and unlawful searches and seizures. Monitors have documented a lack of progress toward the goals set in the settlement, though they also recognized “new signs of commitment to reforms” and better communication and transparency in a report this year.

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