HomeNewsLocalMan Ordered to Stand Trial for Sheriff's Deputy's Shooting Death

Man Ordered to Stand Trial for Sheriff’s Deputy’s Shooting Death

LANCASTER (CNS) – A man who allegedly confessed to the ambush shooting of a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy in Palmdale last year was ordered Thursday to stand trial on a murder charge.

Superior Court Judge Kathleen Blanchard rejected a motion by defense attorney George Rosenstock to dismiss the case against Kevin Eduardo Cataneo Salazar.

The 29-year-old Palmdale man is charged with the Sept. 16, 2023, killing of Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer, who was shot in the back of the head in a patrol vehicle while stopped at a red light near the sheriff’s Palmdale station.

The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegations of murder of a peace officer, lying in wait and firing from a vehicle, along with allegations that he personally used and discharged a .22-caliber revolver.

Salazar entered a dual plea of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity in connection with the killing.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Detective Gustavo Carrillo testified during the hearing that Salazar acknowledged his involvement in the shooting during questioning at the Palmdale sheriff’s station by detectives two days after the killing. Salazar told investigators that he felt bad and “cried for the (expletive) officer,” according to the detective.

Under cross-examination by Salazar’s attorney, the detective acknowledged that when asked why he had shot the deputy that Salazar responded that it had “started a long time ago before COVID” and that he “began to hear voices in his head.”

“You asked him if the voices told him to shoot the deputy?” the defense lawyer asked.

“He replied it was everything,” Carrillo responded.

Under renewed questioning by Deputy District Attorney Michael Blake, the sheriff’s detective said Salazar didn’t have any trouble understanding his questions and only began talking about “voices” when he was asked about the deputy’s killing.

Investigators didn’t initially know who had shot and killed the 30- year-old sheriff’s deputy, but used surveillance video footage to identify a vehicle believed to be a charcoal gray Toyota Corolla and then to ask the public to come forward with any information about the vehicle, according to Carrillo.

The detective said that among those who contacted investigators was a motorist who testified that he took a photo of the license plate of a vehicle whose driver had aggressively confronted him about seven minutes before authorities believe Clinkunbroomer was shot. Syed Alam identified Salazar in court as that driver.

Avak Astajyan — who came upon the scene of the shooting — told the judge that he was driving in the area of Sierra Highway and East Avenue Q and heard honking, then realized something wasn’t right about the police vehicle sitting in one of the lanes.

“He was gasping for air … He was bleeding from his nose,” the prosecution witness testified, noting that he subsequently noticed blood coming from the back of the deputy’s head.

He testified that he ran to the nearby sheriff’s station and started screaming, “Officer down!” with deputies subsequently rushing out of the building.

The sheriff’s detective testified that surveillance video showed the charcoal gray compact car driving southbound behind a patrol SUV with a sheriff’s sergeant behind the wheel, and then making a U-turn after the sergeant pulled into the sheriff’s station’s parking lot and Clinkunbroomer pulled out of the station heading northbound.

Authorities used the license plate number shown in the photo taken by Alam and determined that someone living at his house had a registered .22- caliber firearm, with detectives subsequently getting an arrest warrant for Salazar and a search warrant for his home, where a .22-caliber revolver was discovered, the detective testified.

Salazar subsequently acknowledged that he had used that gun to shoot Clinkunbroomer, according to the detective.

The wounded deputy — a third-generation deputy who had become engaged to be married four days before he was killed — was rushed to Antelope Valley Medical Center in grave condition and was pronounced dead that night.

A deputy medical examiner concluded that Clinkunbroomer died from a single gunshot that entered the back of his head, the detective testified.

Salazar’s family insisted he is not a “coward” — as Sheriff Robert Luna called him — but is mentally ill.

“My brother, he’s getting called a coward,” Salazar’s sister, Jessica, told reporters shortly after his arrest. “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.”

She said then that her family was 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 said she was unaware her son owned any firearms, but said an investigator told her that he had legally purchased a weapon.

“The proliferation of guns in our society is one of the causes of an event like this,” Salazar’s attorney said outside court Thursday, adding that there has also been a “failure of gun dealers to properly check the mental history of people purchasing these guns.”

The deputy’s parents, Kim and Michael Clinkunbroomer, have filed a lawsuit accusing the sheriff’s department and county officials of knowingly endangering the lives of deputies by forcing them to work excessive hours and shifts. Their attorney, Bradley Gage, told reporters last year that Ryan Clinkunbroomer worked 69 hours of overtime, in addition to his normal 80 hours, in the two weeks prior to his death.

The deputy’s mother told ABC News last year that District Attorney George Gascón’s decision not to pursue the death penalty against Salazar is a “disgrace.”

At a news conference shortly after the case was filed, Gascón stood by the decision not to seek death for the defendant.

“If I thought that seeking the death penalty was going to bring Ryan back to us, I would seek it without any reservation. But it won’t,” the district attorney said at the time.

“If I thought that the death penalty was going to stop people from committing brutal murders, I would seek it. But we know that it won’t. The reality is that the death penalty doesn’t serve as a deterrent, and the death penalty does not bring people back. … What I can assure you is that we’re going to do everything within our legal power to make sure that this defendant never is out of prison.”

If Salazar is convicted and determined to have been insane at the time of the killing, he would be confined to a state hospital rather than prison.

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