By The Signal Editorial Board
The first time Ryan Clinkunbroomer’s name appeared in The Signal, he was just 6 years old. It was an AYSO “Boys 6U” soccer summary, with no score listed. When the kids are that young, they don’t officially keep score. The summary of the Lightning vs. Roadrunners game published April 30, 1999, ended with, “Alex Pacheco, Rahul Bansal, Marco DelGardo, Tyler Peacock and Ryan Clinkunbroomer led the Roadrunners.”
Like so many kids who lace up cleats on Saturday mornings and take the fields at local parks and schools, his parents chose to raise him here, in a community known for safety and great schools.
They’re attributes that prompt many law enforcement officers to call the SCV home. Perhaps it’s a circular relationship: All of those officers living here contribute to an environment and culture valuing public safety. Ryan’s dad and grandfather were deputies in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, and Ryan became a deputy, too, serving at the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station since 2018. As Sheriff Robert Luna would say this week, service ran through his veins.
Fast forward to 2023.
Ryan Clinkunbroomer, a 2010 West Ranch High School graduate and a leader of the Roadrunners in a 6U soccer game in 1999, was gunned down in Palmdale while serving the community.
He died one week ago tonight from the wound inflicted by a shooter who pulled up next to him while the deputy, a respected training officer, waited at a red light in his patrol vehicle, right outside the Palmdale station.
Ryan and his fiancée, Brittany Lindsey, had become engaged four days earlier. Her grief-stricken heart broken for all to see, Lindsey bravely stepped up to the podium at the televised press conference four days after her fiance’s death, moments after criminal charges were announced against the man accused of killing Ryan.
“Ryan was the best guy I’ve ever met,” she said, mustering the courage to speak through her tears. “We couldn’t wait to start our lives together because we were just engaged.”
The shooter took that away from Ryan, and Brittany, and their families, and the family they will not be able to start.
On Sunday night, the community will wrap its collective arms around Ryan, Brittany and their loved ones, as the city of Santa Clarita hosts a vigil, 7 p.m. at Marketplace Park, on the corner of Newhall Ranch Road and Grandview Drive. It’s our chance to show them that, even for those of us who didn’t know him personally, Ryan mattered, and an entire community shares in their grief.
Ryan Clinkunbroomer was 30 years old — just 24 short years removed from that AYSO 6U soccer game in 1999. He was a good man. And he was one of the Santa Clarita Valley’s own.
As we expressed above, the killing of Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer evokes strong emotions, of anger, of frustration, of grief shared with our neighbors who are hurting. It also, though, raises issues that must be viewed less through the lens of emotion than through a more analytical one, the principles of right and wrong, and justice and the law.
It’s in that second, more analytical view that we are reinforced in our belief that District Attorney George Gascón is not suited for his role. Most simply put, he does not have the mentality of a prosecutor. So much so that he ignores his obligations to prosecute criminals and seek sentences consistent with the laws of California.
In the press conference when Gascón announced the murder charge against Kevin Cataneo Salazar, 29, of Palmdale, the DA surprised some by including special enhancements that the suspect was lying in wait, that it was a deliberate attack on a peace officer and that he intentionally used a firearm in the crime.
Gascón, upon taking office in 2020, said such enhancements would not be pursued on his watch. Here, though, politically, he didn’t have a lot of choice.
Sheriff Robert Luna said it was his hope that the outcome will be “nothing less than the maximum punishment available under the law for this individual.”
But, as Gascón subsequently made clear, it absolutely will not be the maximum punishment.
In California, the maximum sentences for the charges are life without possibility of parole, or the death penalty. In response to a media question, Gascón said he would not seek the death penalty against Salazar because it would not bring Clinkunbroomer back.
That’s not the point. No one has ever been under the illusion that the death penalty will “bring back” any crime victim. Rather, it serves as a deterrent — despite Gascón’s protestations otherwise — and as punishment. It makes clear that the most heinous crimes deserve the most severe punishment and will not be tolerated.
It’s also the maximum punishment under California law for a first-degree murder of this type. This is a senseless murder that demands the death penalty.
Gascón is an inexperienced prosecutor who has never prosecuted a felony. In fact, when a media member asked for an explanation of the special enhancement, “lying in wait,” he summoned a deputy prosecutor to explain it. The county’s chief prosecutor should have knocked that explanation out of the park, on his own.
But Gascón doesn’t have the mentality of a prosecutor. Since taking office, he has, in his actions, words and special directives, focused more attention on things like “rehabilitation” and getting criminals out of prison than he has on putting bad guys away.
He has the mentality of a public defender, and maybe that’s where he belongs. We want public defenders who use every tool available to make sure every defendant gets a fair trial and the most lenient sentence possible. And we want DAs who aggressively prosecute crimes and seek the harshest punishments for the most serious crimes, because that’s the law.
It’s also how the system is supposed to work: Prosecutors prosecute, defenders defend, and judges and juries render decisions.
If Salazar is found guilty of murdering Deputy Clinkunbroomer, with Gascón at the helm of the so-called prosecutor’s office, the closest thing to justice we can hope for will be a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.
It would provide some comfort to know the shooter who ambushed a good man in cold blood will never again breathe free air.
But it won’t be “justice.” Not quite.