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Suspect arrested in the ambush killing of Los Angeles deputy pleads not guilty to murder charge

By Stephanie Becker and Emma Tucker, CNN

(CNN) — The 29-year-old man accused of killing a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy in an ambush-style shooting last week entered dual pleas Wednesday of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.

Kevin Cataneo Salazar is charged with murder with special allegations in the shooting of Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer, 30, who was waiting at a red light in his patrol car on Saturday when he was attacked.

The deputy, who got engaged just four days before he was killed, was found fatally wounded by a civilian around 6 p.m. near his sheriff’s station in Palmdale, about 60 miles north of Los Angeles, police have said.

Cataneo Salazar denied all special allegations in the complaint, which accuses him of intentionally killing the deputy with a .22 caliber revolver “by means of lying-in-wait,” referring to an ambush-style killing.

Cataneo Salazar’s attorney, George Rosenstock, declined to comment on the case when contacted by CNN.

“Deputy Clinkunbroomer was a peace officer who was intentionally killed while engaged in the performance of his duties,” says the complaint against Cataneo Salazar. It also states the defendant “knew and reasonably should have known” Clinkunbroomer was on duty as a law enforcement officer.

If convicted, the suspect will face a sentence of “life imprisonment without the possibility of parole,” according to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.

Judge Scott Yang ordered Cataneo Salazar to remain held without bail and issued a protective order on discovery, preventing details of the case from being made public.

Cataneo Salazar’s mother and two sisters were in the observation room with reporters. One sister appeared to be crying. It appeared his mother was not able to see her son from the vantage point where she was sitting and spent most of the hearing staring at the floor.

Nearly a dozen uniformed sheriff’s deputies sat in the jury box during the proceeding.

During a news conference later on Wednesday, Clinkunbroomer’s fiancée, Brittany Lindsey, called the deputy “the best guy I ever met.”

“He was so thoughtful and caring and everyone who met him or knew him loved him. I’m so happy I was able to love him. It was not long enough. I couldn’t wait to start our lives together. We were just engaged, planning to get married and start a family,” Lindsey said through tears. “Ryan, I miss you and I love you so much. I don’t know how to live without you and I didn’t ever want to imagine it.”

A preliminary hearing in the case was scheduled for November 7 at 11:30 a.m.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Blake said during Wednesday’s news conference police believe the suspect “did purchase a firearm in the weeks before the crime,” but did not elaborate further.

The suspect’s sister, Jessica Salazar, publicly apologized for her brother’s actions and said he was not in the right state of mind.

“It wasn’t him. It was the sickness. It was the sickness controlling him,” Salazar told CNN affiliate KABC.

Salazar said her brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. “He would feel persecuted, voices talking to him. He tried committing suicide once or twice,” she told KABC.

But the status of the suspect’s mental health might not bring comfort to the deputy’s grieving family, Los Angeles Sheriff Robert Luna said.

“Whether mental health is a factor or not, think about this: If I had to go to your family and tell them you were not coming home and you were just murdered, does it matter what the person was thinking or their condition?” Luna said.

Investigators will be working to obtain medical records as they look into “unconfirmed reports” the suspect may have a mental health history, Deputy District Attorney David Ayvazian said Wednesday.

Clinkunbroomer was a beloved member of the sheriff’s department and “was just starting his life,” Luna said. The deputy’s father and grandfather both served in the sheriff’s department, Luna said.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Kevin Flower, Josh Campbell, Camila Bernal, Holly Yan and Nouran Salahieh contributed to this report.

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