PALMDALE, Calif. — A 29-year-old man was arrested early Monday, 36 hours after the ambush killing of a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who was shot as he sat in a patrol car, authorities said.
The suspect barricaded himself inside a home in the city of Palmdale for several hours, but later surrendered and weapons were recovered, Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna told a news conference. Sheriff's officials identified the arrested suspect as Kevin Cataneo Salazar of Palmdale.
Luna said authorities have not yet determined a motive for the killing of 30-year-old Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer on Saturday evening. He described the situation as “fluid” and said there could be more arrests.
“I feel extremely confident that we have the right person in custody,” Luna said.
“Our deputy was in uniform in a marked black-and-white police vehicle right in front of the station,” Luna said. “Why did he do this? I have no idea. Was he targeted? I’m assuming he was but ... our intent is to find out.”
Luna read a statement from Clinkunbroomer's family, saying he was dedicated, hardworking and proud to serve.
“Ryan made the ultimate sacrifice in doing so,” the statement said. “Ryan was recently engaged to the love of his life. As our firstborn son, Ryan will be greatly missed by his family, friends and the sheriff’s department as a whole.”
The suspect's mother, Marle Salazar, told the Los Angeles Times her son was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic about five years ago. He would say he was hearing voices in his head, she said, and sometimes claimed that cars or people were following him. He twice attempted suicide, she said.
“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 paper.
Clinkunbroomer had just left the sheriff’s station in Palmdale, a city of more than 167,000 residents in the high desert of northern Los Angeles County, when he was shot and killed. A “good Samaritan” spotted him and alerted station personnel.
The department later released grainy surveillance video of a dark-colored sedan that pulled alongside the patrol car in the moments before the shooting.
Luna said community members came forward with information that led homicide investigators to identify the suspect and the vehicle.
Early Monday, a SWAT team from the department's Special Enforcement Bureau served a search warrant at the residence and called for all occupants to come out, the sheriff said.
Family members came out but the suspect barricaded himself inside, he said. Deputies used de-escalation techniques including negotiators before they “deployed chemical agents” and the suspect surrendered, Luna said. He did not identify the weapons that were seized.
Marle Salazar said she called deputies at least twice in the past, asking for help when her son refused to take his medication and grew aggressive toward himself. She said he had never hurt anyone before, and his aggression was always self-directed.
“I have called the police several times,” she told the Times. “In the end, they would say, ‘He’s an adult, so if he doesn’t want to take (his medication), we can’t do anything.’”
Sheriff's department spokesperson Nicole Nishida said investigators were looking into whether there were law enforcement calls at the home.
Salazar said she didn't know her son owned a gun, but was told by detectives that he had legally purchased a weapon that was used in the attack.
The sheriff said Clinkunbroomer had been assigned to the Palmdale station since July 2018, and that his father and grandfather had also served in the department.
“Deputy Sheriff Ryan Clinkunbroomer and his family are an integral part of the very essence of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and this heart-wrenching murder cuts to the very core of our being,” Richard Pippin, the president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the deputies’ union, said in a statement.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom called the killing “horrific, unconscionable and shocking.” He ordered flags at the state Capitol flown at half-staff in Clinkunbroomer's honor.
“In this time of mourning, we honor this legacy and send our deepest sympathies to Deputy Clinkunbroomer’s fiancée, his loved ones, and the men and women of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,” Newsom said in a statement Sunday. “Deputy Clinkunbroomer’s devotion to community and country will never be forgotten.”
Antczak reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press journalists Christopher Weber in Los Angeles and Julie Watson in San Diego contributed to this report.