Suspect in Palmdale deputy murder appears in court, pleads not guilty by reason of insanity

The suspect in the ambush killing of a Palmdale sheriff’s deputy entered a dual plea of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity in a Lancaster courtroom Wednesday.

Kevin Cantaneo Salazar, 29, was charged with one count of murder.

District Attorney George Gascón provided an update on the case Wednesday afternoon. The murder charge includes three special-circumstance allegations, Gascón said. Those include that the crime was committed against a peace officer, lying in wait and discharge of firearm from a motor vehicle.

If convicted, Salazar would likely face a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole, Gascón said. The district attorney repeated his previous opposition against seeking the death penalty in general.

“If I thought that seeking the death penalty was gonna bring Ryan back to us, I will seek it without any reservation,” Gascón said. “But it won’t.”

“If I thought the death penalty was gonna stop people from committing brutal murders, I will seek it. But we know that it won’t. The reality is that the death penalty doesn’t serve as a deterrent and the death penalty does not bring people back.”

In court, Salazar was seen with his arms restrained to his hips.

He has reportedly confessed to killing Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer, multiple law enforcement sources told reporters.

The deputy’s fiancee, Brittany Lindsey, spoke through tears at Wednesday’s news conference.

“Ryan I miss you and I love you so much,” Lindsey said. “I don’t know how to live without you.”

Salazar was arrested at his Palmdale home Monday morning after a lengthy standoff with sheriff’s deputies. They found a significant number of firearms inside the home.

Investigators believe Salazar drove up behind Deputy Clinkunbroomer’s patrol vehicle and ambushed him with gunfire Saturday night. A passerby found the deputy unconscious in his car and alerted authorities. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Salazar’s family said he has mental-health issues which include schizophrenia and hearing voices in his head.

His family says they understand Salazar will have to face the consequences. But they said his alleged actions may have been the product of mental illness.

“We just want you guys to know my brother has schizophrenia, he’s bipolar,” said the suspect’s sister, Jessica Salazar. “He was diagnosed with schizophrenia. A lot of people that have family members out there are going to understand.”

“He would feel persecuted, voices talking to him. He tried committing suicide once or twice.”

Salazar is being held without bail. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for November.

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