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Suspect arrested in killing of L.A. County sheriff’s deputy in Palmdale

VIDEO | 02:47
Suspect arrested in killing of L.A. County sheriff’s deputy in Palmdale

A 29-year-old man has been arrested in the killing of an L.A. County sheriff’s deputy after a massive manhunt.

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A 29-year-old man was arrested early Monday in the killing of a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who was shot in the head near the Palmdale station late Saturday, 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 community members came forward with information that helped investigators identify Kevin Cataneo Salazar as the suspect. That led deputies to his home on the east side of Palmdale, where he 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 at a press conference. “We believe we have the murderer of our deputy in custody.”

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Investigators say there are no other suspects involved.

Special enforcement, or SWAT, deputies took Cataneo Salazar into custody after an hours-long standoff on Barrinson Street, during which Cataneo Salazar barricaded himself in his family’s home.

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

Deputies recovered numerous firearms at the location as well as the Toyota Corolla that was linked to the brazen killing, Luna said. The vehicle was captured on surveillance video pulling up beside Clinkunbroomer’s marked sheriff’s vehicle Saturday before driving away, moments before the deputy was found fatally shot in the head.

Julio Cruz was visiting his mom in the Palmdale neighborhood where Cataneo Salazar was detained. He said he heard law enforcement 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. The suspect finally came out around 5 a.m, Cruz said. 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.

The suspect in the killing of a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy was diagnosed with schizophrenia, heard voices and twice tried to kill himself, his mother told The Times.

Sept. 18, 2023

Cataneo Salazar admitted to killing the deputy, according to multiple law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation. He was linked to the case after someone who had been in a road rage incident with Cataneo Salazar came forward and then helped identify him, the sources said.

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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, part of the high desert community just 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, according to the video shared with The Times.

A shirtless man holds up his hands near vehicles
Kevin Cataneo Salazar, 29, of Palmdale is taken into custody Monday in connection with the killing of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer.
(Keynews.TV)

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, where he died as physicians attempted to treat his gunshot wound.

Clinkunbroomer was 30.

“Our deputies go out and serve this community every day, putting their lives on the line,” Luna said, visibly choking up as he spoke Monday. “Ryan’s family will never see him again.”

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Ryan Clinkunbroomer is remembered for his work ethic, his humor, his hopes and dreams. The deputy was hoping to start a family soon and wanted, one day, to become a detective.

Sept. 17, 2023

Clinkunbroomer was a third-generation sheriff’s deputy who had recently gotten engaged. Dozens of officers and community members gathered at the Palmdale station Monday morning in front of a makeshift memorial. Law enforcement wore black bands over their badges and civilians wore blue ribbons on their shirts and lapels.

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“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. During his arrest, Cataneo Salazar was described according to a sheriff’s call code as suffering from diminished mental capacity, according to law enforcement sources.

Marle Salazar, the 29-year-old’s mother, said her son was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia about five years ago, which has been an ongoing battle. She said she’s had to call law enforcement at least twice when he’s become aggressive toward himself, hearing voices after not taking his medication. But she said Cataneo Salazar had never hurt anyone. She said she was unaware that her son owned a gun.

Salazar said she and her family were caught off guard when law enforcement raided their Palmdale home.

“My son is mentally ill, and if he did something, he wasn’t in his full mental capacity,” she said in an interview with The Times in Spanish. “They’re only saying that he was the one that shot the deputy, but nobody is saying he has a record for needing mental help.”

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It wasn’t immediately clear if investigators believe his mental illness was a factor in the shooting.

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

“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.

Ryan Clinkunbroomer was fatally shot in his patrol vehicle in front of the Palmdale station, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Sept. 17, 2023

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.”

“His father served with us. His grandfather served with us,” Luna said. “He had so much ahead of him.”

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

The Assn. of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs called for the person responsible to face the fullest 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.”

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“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.

Just hours before his arrest, law enforcement sources told The Times that Cataneo Salazar attended the Sunday vigil event for Clinkunbroomer at the Palmdale station.

Luna said Monday he could not confirm if the suspect was at the vigil.

“I definitely would like to know the same answer to that,” Luna said. “That is part of what we’ll be asking about. There maybe is a chance he was here. I cannot verify that.”

He also could not confirm if the suspect legally purchased a firearm. He said those are all questions under investigation.

“How did he get his hands on them? Were they registered to somebody? Where’d they come from?” Luna said. “Our investigators are still actively working this case.”

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While investigators are confident they have the right suspect, he asked that residents continue to come forward with any potentially relevant information.

“The entire Antelope Valley community assistance played an instrumental role in gleaning information leading to the identification of the suspect. And again, we’re extremely grateful,” Luna said.

Maria Marta Naranjo volunteered at the station during the Sunday vigil and returned Monday to hear news about the arrest.

“These feelings move us as a community to help and pray,” she said. “To pray for his family, his girlfriend, the whole community, the sheriff and the whole station.”

Palmdale resident John Vencel approached a uniformed deputy with a bouquet of red flowers Monday morning, but was directed to the growing memorial outside the station. After he placed them down, he made the sign of the cross.

“I was going to come last night but I was just so angry,” Vencel said. “For someone to do that, pull up and shoot someone without any type of recognition... it’s so cowardly.”

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