Suspect pleads not guilty by reason of insanity; Fiancée speaks in emotional news conference: ‘the best guy I’ve ever met’
During an emotional news conference attended by members of the Clinkunbroomer family, the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office announced it was seeking a penalty of life without parole for the man accused of murdering a sheriff’s deputy in cold blood.
The man accused of killing Palmdale Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning by reason of insanity and faces one count of murder, as well as special enhancements with respect to the weapon detectives believe was used in the murder, according to law enforcement sources and court documents obtained by The Signal.
The charges included three special enhancements, a prosecutorial tact intended to seek a longer sentence if a criminal is convicted of a crime, which has been used rarely if at all under District Attorney George Gascón.
The special enhancements include that the suspect, Kevin Cataneo Salazar, 29, of Palmdale, was lying in wait, that it was a deliberate attack on a peace officer and that he intentionally used a firearm in the crime.
During his address of the charges being brought forth, Sheriff Robert Luna said he spoke to Clinkunbroomer’s family ahead of Wednesday’s announcement.
“We promised the parents that we would arrest this individual,” Luna said during Wednesday’s conference. “They talked to me about the prosecution and, based on the DA’s announcement today, we are hoping for nothing less than the maximum punishment available under the law for this individual.”
According to the state’s penal code, the maximum sentences for the charges are life without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty.
In response to a question from the media, Gascón said he would file the death penalty against Salazar if he thought it could help bring back Clinkunbroomer or deter future murders, but he said he knew it would do neither, so he will not be pursuing the death penalty.
Clinkunbroomer’s fiancée, Brittany Lindsey, who had stood alongside the deputy’s parents as Gascón and Luna spoke, tearfully thanked every officer from the bottom of her heart and anyone who worked on the investigation into her fiance’s murder.
“Ryan was the best guy I’ve ever met,” she said softly through tears. “He was so thoughtful and caring, and anyone who ever met him, knew and loved him.”
Clinkunbroomer was a Santa Clarita Valley resident who graduated from West Ranch High School in 2010. He and Lindsey became engaged to be married four days prior to his murder.
“We couldn’t’ wait to start our lives together because we were just engaged,” she said. “Ryan, I miss you and I love you so much.”
Prosecutors Michael Blake and David Ayvazian discussed the video evidence that appeared to show an ambush, according to Ayvazian, which was why the prosecution decided to pursue the “lying-in-wait” allegation.
They also revealed a bit of information that had yet to be confirmed by officials until Wednesday: Investigators believe that Salazar purchased a handgun in the weeks prior to the murder.
After an hourslong standoff, Salazar was taken into custody early Monday morning on suspicion he shot and killed Clinkunbroomer Saturday evening as the field training officer was in his patrol vehicle, stopped for a red light at the intersection of Avenue Q and Sierra Highway, near the station.
Ayvazian also addressed persistent rumors in media reports regarding the suspect having schizophrenia and claims made in an interview by the family.
“We have unconfirmed reports that there may be a mental health history,” adding that at this early stage he didn’t think he could speculate as to the suspect’s mental health history.
The charging documents obtained by The Signal accuse Salazar of one count of 187(a), murder, as well as the following allegations, which would represent a change from past policy from the District Attorney’s Office:
“It is further alleged that the murder was intentional and perpetrated by means of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, intentionally at another person and persons outside the vehicle with the intent to inflict death,” according to the complaint.
The complaint also confirms the previously reported allegation of the specific handgun Salazar is alleged to have used in the shooting, as well: “It is further alleged that in the commission and attempted commission of the above offense, the defendant, Kevin Eduardo Cataneo Salazar, personally used a firearm, to wit: a .22-caliber revolver.”
The investigation is being handled by Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau Detective Gus Carrillo for LASD.
Sheriff’s Department arrest records available online indicate Salazar was arrested at the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station at 5:15 a.m. Monday, and he’s currently being held without bail at the Twin Towers Custody Facility in downtown Los Angeles.
The city of Santa Clarita is hosting a candlelight vigil honoring Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer on Sunday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. at Marketplace Park, which is on the corner of Newhall Ranch Road and Grandview Drive