Mother Says Suspect in Deputy Ambush Is Mentally Ill

Kevin Cataneo Salazar pleads not guilty by reason of insanity in LA County murder
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 20, 2023 3:00 PM CDT
Suspect in LA Deputy Ambush Killing Pleads Not Guilty
A supporter takes photos of a memorial to Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer outside of the Palmdale Sheriff's Station Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Palmdale, Calif.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The man charged with murder in the ambush killing of a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity on Wednesday. Officials say Kevin Cataneo Salazar fatally shot 30-year-old Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer, who was sitting in a patrol car, on Saturday in Palmdale, a city of more than 167,000 residents in northern Los Angeles County. Prosecutors charged Cataneo Salazar, 29, with one count of murder with special circumstances. His attorney, George Rosenstock, entered a plea of not guilty and a dual plea of not guilty by reason of insanity on his behalf during Wednesday's arraignment, the AP reports.

Cataneo Salazar was arrested Monday after an hourslong standoff with sheriff's deputies. He had barricaded himself inside his family's Palmdale home. Cataneo Salazar is being held without bail and is scheduled to return to court in November. Prosecutors haven't laid out a motive in the case or said whether Clinkunbroomer and Cataneo Salazar previously knew each other. 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. Marle Salazar told the Times that she didn't know her son owned a gun, but she was told by detectives that he had legally purchased a weapon used in the attack. It was not clear when he bought the firearm. She said her son had been hospitalized in the past year, but it was not clear if he sought treatment himself or was involuntarily committed. She 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.

(Read more Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department stories.)

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