Community members, elected officials, law enforcement personnel, first responders and the friends and family of Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer congregated in his honor on Sunday for a candlelight vigil held at Marketplace Park.
Clinkunbroomer, a Santa Clarita Valley resident, was shot and killed while on duty in Palmdale on Sept. 16. The man accused of killing Clinkunbroomer, Kevin Cataneo Salazar, 29, was taken into custody after an hour-long standoff Sept. 18 and later pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to murder charges.
As attendees walked onto the grounds from the parking lot, a gateway was formed by two Los Angeles County Fire Department ladder trucks that pointed their ladders toward each other — with an American flag suspended between them.
While the exact number of people who attended is unknown, city officials said there were approximately 450 electric candles prepared for the event and there weren’t nearly enough for everyone.
Speakers at the event included Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, L.A. County Sheriff Robert Luna, 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose district includes Santa Clarita, Mayor Jason Gibbs and Father Jihoon Kim of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Church. Sharing the stage with them was City Manager Ken Striplin, Mayor Pro Tem Cameron Smyth, City Councilman Bill Miranda, City Councilwoman Marsha McLean and SCV Sheriff’s Station Capt. Justin Diez.
The national anthem was performed by the band of West Ranch High School — Clinkunbroomer’s alma mater.
Garcia said that there was nothing more important to him than being at the event, that it was one of the toughest weeks he had ever been through, that he couldn’t imagine what Clinkunbroomer’s family was going through and he lamented that we live in a world where his death could happen.
“We must rise above this and we must do better as a community,” said Garcia. “That juxtaposition of someone who was willing to make the ultimate demonstration of love by protecting us and laying down his life … with someone who was willing to take that individual’s life, is a powerful one to learn from and we must be compelled to do better as a country and as a society.”
Garcia detailed his experience of giving a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and how a deputy left a voicemail in response. Garcia said the voicemail “shook me to my foundation” because of the fear in the deputy’s voice.
He urged the community and local elected officials to do anything they could to support law enforcement before announcing that had a commitment from the House Judiciary Committee to take up his bill that would make the killing of a law enforcement official a federal felony with punishment being “no less than life in prison or the death penalty as appropriate.”
The announcement was met with a roar of applause.
Luna began his speech, like the others, lamenting the death of Clinkunbroomer and thanking the community for support — particularly in their assistance in helping find Salazar.
However, he also wanted to make a correction to previously said statements. Luna, and some others, have incorrectly stated that Clinkunbroomer was a third-generation L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy.
He was not. He was actually the fourth generation, with his great-grandfather being one of the first captains in its homicide department, according to Luna.
Luna continued by saying that support for sheriff’s deputies needs to be taught everywhere and said it was “time to turn the tide.”
“We really need to turn the page. Our employees are the good guys and girls. They are the superheroes,” said Luna. “That’s what we need to teach our kids in school, that’s what we need to talk about in church. So we need to talk about that everywhere that we go, police officers, deputies are the good people in our community.”
Luna said his goal was to “stay disciplined” as the case against Salazar moves forward. He mentioned he could not talk about the case but wished he could.
“We’re going to give it our all at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to make sure that the district attorney does everything they can to make sure the individual, the coward that committed this act, serves nothing less than the absolute maximum punishment offered by the state of California,” said Luna.
Gibbs’ speech focused on the life of Clinkunbroomer and his impact on Santa Clarita — his hometown. Gibbs said the community wraps its arms around those who are hurting when times of tragedy strike, and offered this same solace to the family, friends and fiancée of Clinkunbroomer.
“But tonight, we don’t want to focus on his death that stole him from his loved ones and his fiancée much too soon,” said Gibbs, who acted as master of ceremonies for the event. “Tonight we want to focus on the life that he lived for those that he loved, and the men and women in uniform, who were tragically reminded once again (of) the sacrifices they make every single day to protect our communities.”
Gibbs called Clinkunbroomer’s killing a “cowardly act of violence” but thanked the community of Santa Clarita for its outpouring of support.
“I personally never had the honor of meeting Deputy Clinkunbroomer, but in the days since his death, I have heard from many people in this community who have known him well,” said Gibbs. “The words that I keep coming to describe him are kind, dedicated, loyal with a deep love for his family, his community and his brothers and sisters.”
Barger noted that she had spent the past week in Palmdale speaking with the friends and family of Clinkunbroomer.
Barger’s Bible quote — “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” — at the end of her speech was echoed by those who followed her, including Kim.
Barger called Clinkunbroomer an “incredible officer” and said he was a “man of noble heart” with a lot to give who excelled at his position with pride and enthusiasm. She added that the country is in a “national crisis” where law enforcement officers are under attack.
“The violent act that ended Ryan’s life is a stark reminder of the dangers our brave law enforcement officers face every day as they selflessly work hard to protect and to serve,” said Barger. “While the vocal minority continue to try to undermine this incredible profession, he leaves an irreparable, irreplaceable void. There are no words that can bring comfort to those who are hurting the most. There is no way to ever ease the pain of losing a child, a grandchild, or a beloved fiance.”
The ceremony concluded with the raising of the candles during a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”