A 29-year-old man charged with fatally shooting a Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputy in front of the county sheriff’s Palmdale station pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity during his first court appearance Sept. 20 in Los Angeles.
Sporting shoulder-length wavy black hair and wearing what appeared to be a safety smock often worn by inmates on suicide watch, the shackled Kevin Cataneo Salazar was charged with first-degree murder with special circumstances—offenses that allow for penalty enhancements—for allegedly killing 30-year-old Ryan Clinkunbroomer in his patrol car at a red light on the evening of Sept. 16.
Charging documents allege that the suspect committed three offenses that qualify as special circumstances—killing a peace officer, lying in wait, and murdering by discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle. If found guilty of these charges, state law allows for punishment options of life without parole or the death penalty.
While some community members and posts on social media are calling for capital punishment, the district attorney said he will not seek such because he does not believe the death penalty is effective.
“If I thought seeking the death penalty would bring Ryan back, I would seek it without reservation, but it won’t,” Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “If I thought the death penalty was going to prevent people from committing brutal murders, I would seek it, but we know it won’t.”
Instead, prosecutors are asking for a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
“What I can assure you is that we’re going to do everything in our legal power to see that this person never gets out of prison,” Mr. Gascón said.
Awaiting further court proceedings, the defendant is currently being held in the Twin Towers jail in downtown Los Angeles.
Due to his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, a trial will be held at an undetermined date to identify his mental health status and eligibility for criminal trial. If found insane and convicted of the crime, punishment would involve life-long incarceration in a facility designed for mental health patients.
While investigators were reticent to provide details during the press conference, they mentioned that a firearm was purchased by the defendant in the weeks before the crime, though it is unclear if it was the murder weapon. Charging documents indicate that a .22 caliber revolver was used in the crime.
Prosecutors said they are confident they have the right person and enough evidence to convince a jury of the charges filed.
“We believe the evidence is sufficient for a conviction,” prosecutor David Ayvazian said during the press conference. “If you see the video, that is consistent with a lying-in-wait prosecution.”
Making their first public appearance since the shooting at the press conference, the Clinkunbroomer family stood behind the speakers, with tissues passed between them and deep, emotional pain visible on their faces.
“We promised the parents we would arrest this individual,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said during the same press conference. “We are hoping for nothing less than the maximum punishment under the law.”
The district attorney expressed his gratitude for the deputy’s family for their compassionate resolve throughout the tragic circumstance and spoke of the honor and respect bestowed upon Mr. Clinkunbroomer.
“His sacrifice serves as a reminder of the courage and dedication of our law enforcement community. Our pursuit of justice does not end with these charges; it is imperative that justice be served.” Mr. Gascón said. “We owe it to Ryan, his family, and every member of our community. Ryan’s bravery and commitment will never be forgotten, and his legacy will live on.”
Holding back tears, Brittany Lindsey, Mr. Clinkunbroomer’s fiancé—engaged three days before the murder—spoke of her gratitude for those that worked tirelessly to apprehend the individual responsible.
“I want to thank each and every officer from the bottom of my heart,” Ms. Lindsey said during the press conference. “I also want to say thank you to everyone that helped solve this case.”
With so many goals and ambitions as a soon-to-be married couple, her life was changed in an instant, she said.
“We were planning to get married and start a family,” Ms. Lindsey said. “Ryan, I love you and I miss you so much.”