Family of slain Palmdale deputy files $20-million wrongful-death claim against county

Keri Blakinger
Los Angeles Times
November 28, 2023

The parents of a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy have filed a claim signaling they plan to sue the county, alleging that their son was forced to work so much overtime that he was too fatigued to stay alert and avoid threats such as the mentally ill 29-year-old who gunned him down outside the Palmdale station in September.

Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer was shot in the head while driving in a marked patrol car on the evening of Sept. 16. Days later, authorities announced the arrest of Kevin Cataneo Salazar, who was later charged with murder and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

In the government claim filed Monday, the slain deputy’s parents — Kim and Michael Clinkunbroomer — said they will ask for $20 million in damages. They alleged that “the murder could have been prevented” if the Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff Robert Luna hadn’t created a safety hazard by forcing deputies to work such long hours.

“The Sheriff’s Department knew or should have known that deputies would be targeted for execution and needed sufficient rest in order to avoid foreseeable tragedies of death,” the claim says. “Disregarding the safety of his troops, Sheriff Luna continues to force his deputies [to] work mind-numbing overtime resulting in Ryan’s death and the likely death of other deputies.”

In an emailed statement early Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Department did not respond to the claims about excessive overtime but reiterated support for the prosecution of Clinkunbroomer’s killer.

“The senseless ambush murder of Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer was the epitome of evil, and the Department continues to mourn his death,” the statement said. “We lost a valued member of our Department family who was committed to serving our communities. The Sheriff’s Department remains committed to securing a successful prosecution against the individual responsible for Ryan’s murder.”

Lawyers for the county declined to comment.

The night of the killing, Clinkunbroomer left the sheriff’s station around 6 pm. Surveillance footage showed that a gunman in a dark gray Toyota Corolla pulled up alongside his patrol car at a traffic light. Authorities said the driver shot Clinkunbroomer in the head “ambush style” before driving away.

A passerby found the 30-year-old deputy — affectionately known as “Clink” by his friends — unconscious in his vehicle at the intersection of Avenue Q and Sierra Highway. Fellow deputies took him to Antelope Valley Medical Center in Lancaster, where he died as physicians tried to treat his gunshot wounds.

Police arrested Cataneo Salazar as the sole suspect 36 hours after the shooting. His mother, Marle Salazar, told The Times he had been hospitalized for mental health issues and twice attempted suicide. He is being held without bail in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, a downtown jail typically used to house mentally ill detainees.

At the time of his death, Clinkunbroomer was newly engaged to be married, and he spoke often to his friends about his desire to start a family.