PALMDALE, CA - On Sept. 16, 2023, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer, 30, was ambushed while stopped at a traffic light in this town on the outskirts of Los Angeles County. Now, the deputy’s parents have filed an intent to sue the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, their attorney announced earlier this week, the New York Post reported.
According to the parent’s attorney, the suit will accuse the sheriff’s department and county leaders of putting law enforcement officers at risk by forcing them to work excessive overtime, compounded by severe understaffing.
“I don’t want any parent to ever have to sit at a Thanksgiving or holiday dinner with someone missing like we had to this year,” Kim Clinkunbroomer, the deputy’s mother, said while fighting through tears at a news conference.
“Had he not been fatigued and exhausted, he would have responded safely; he’d be here today,” said the deputy’s father, Michael Clinkunbroomer.
Brad Gage, the family’s attorney, said the deputy had worked 69 hours of overtime in only the two weeks before his being murdered and had worked a double shift the day before.
The attorney alleged that Deputy Clinkunbroomer was exhausted from being overworked and, therefore, missed “the telltale signs” of an impending ambush.
Authorities arrested a suspect, Kevin Cataneo Salzar, 29, and prosecutors have charged him with one count of murder, plus special circumstances alleging murder of a peace officer, murder committed by lying in wait, murder committed by firing from a car, and personal use of a firearm. Salazar is playing the mental case card, pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.
According to Gage, Clinkunbroomer was forced to work up to 100 overtime hours each month. The attorney laid blame on Sheriff Robert Luna, department officials, and county leaders, accusing them of knowingly endangering the lives of deputies by forcing them to work excessive amounts of mandatory overtime.
The current claim is a precursor to a wrongful death lawsuit: the LA County Sheriff’s Department and the Board of Supervisors. Officials have 45 days to respond to the claim before the lawsuit can be filed.
The sheriff’s department released a statement that didn’t comment on the pending lawsuit. However, Luna, sworn in as sheriff one year ago, replacing Alex Villanueva in a contentious election, has vowed to increase staffing.
“The senseless ambush murder of Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer was the epitome of evil, and the Department continues to mourn his death. We lost a valued member of our Department family who was committed to serving our communities,’ the statement said.
“The Sheriff’s Department remains committed to securing a successful prosecution against the individual responsible for Ryan’s murder. Our thoughts continue to remain with the entire Clinkunbroomer family.”
The claim states that “fatigue resulting from these demanding work schedules impairs the deputies’ ability to stay alert and respond effectively in the line of duty,” putting deputies and the public at risk.
“Sheriff Luna and the Board of Supervisors knew the dangers to their employees as a result of intentionally forcing overtime, but intentionally pursued such actions in conscious disregard of the rights and safety of deputies,” the claim states.
KTLA reported that the Los Angeles County Supervisor released a statement that read, “My heart goes out to Deputy Clinkunbroomer’s parents and loved ones who have been robbed that he brought to their lives. Families in mourning have a right to express their grief. I remain committed to supporting Ryan’s family and fellow deputies–nothing will interfere with that.”
“Everybody likes to work a bit of overtime, to earn a bit of extra money, but they don’t want to work so much overtime that they’re unable to take care of themselves and others,” said Gage.
While the head of the deputies’ union agreed that limited staffing is an ongoing issue in the county, he didn’t respond to specific questions about the amount of overtime being worked by deputies.
“The department’s staffing crisis is pushing our deputies to, and sadly sometimes beyond, their limits. We need our elected officials to take a more aggressive and intelligent approach to addressing the department’s inability to recruit and retain qualified people,” Rich Pippin, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, said in a statement. “Failure to do so can only result in more traffic outcomes, not only for our deputy sheriffs but for the millions of people who rely on them for protection.”
Staffing isn’t a concern only in Los Angeles County, a fact emphasized by the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, D.C., which, among other things, tracks staffing problems at police agencies nationwide.
“What you’re seeing in LA, you’re seeing across the country,” said Executive Director Chuck Wexler. “It’s a huge issue.”
The current situation is the culmination of many issues, Wexler said, including retirements and resignations of current law enforcement officers and fewer young people wanting to get into police work. The shortage results in more overtime for officers and deputies currently on the streets.
“And what you’re finding is increased overtime, for some officers, is contributing to them leaving their jobs,” Wexler said. “It’s a generational thing. Young officers would rather have more free time than overtime.”
Prosecutors have yet to determine a motive for Salazar shooting Clinkunbroomer or whether the two had any previous interactions. Authorities have said the deputy was “targeted,” however wouldn’t say if Salazar was explicitly trying to harm Clinkunbroomer or just a police officer in general.
According to a September news release, Salazar allegedly followed Clinkunbroomer at approximately 6:00 p.m. as he left the Palmdale Sheriff’s station. The deputy was stopped at a red light, waiting for it to turn, when Salazar shot the deputy in cold blood.
Salazar was arrested after a standoff with police that lasted several hours. He had barricaded himself in his parent’s home, also located in Palmdale. According to his mother, Marle Salazar, her son had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic some five years ago, the Los Angeles Times reported.
She said he “heard voices” and sometimes claimed people were following him. He had twice attempted suicide and was hospitalized for mental health issues at least once, she said.
As for the slain deputy, he had gotten engaged only four days before being killed and came from a family with generations of LASD deputies, including his father and grandfather, KTLA reported.