Sheriff's deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer's parents clasp arms with his fiancee Brittany Lindsey (R) during a news conference at the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Following the Los Angeles County district attorney’s announcement that his office will not pursue the death penalty for the suspect charged with murdering 30-year-old, newly engaged Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer in front of the Palmdale station on Sept. 16, the mother of the slain deputy spoke out against the decision.
“You can’t do this to families. We need to defend our law enforcement officers, and that’s not—that’s a disgrace,” Kim Clinkunbroomer told ABC News’s Good Morning America Sept. 27. “It just seems that the district attorney wants to spare a life, when [the suspect] didn’t spare my son’s life—he executed my son.”
While the deputy’s family, some community members, and hundreds of posts on social media are calling for capital punishment for the 29-year-old defendant, Kevin Eduardo Cataneo Salazar, the district attorney said he will not seek such.
“If I thought seeking the death penalty would bring Ryan back, I would seek it without reservation, but it won’t,” Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón said during a press conference Sept. 20 with the Clinkunbroomer family behind him on stage. “If I thought the death penalty was going to prevent people from committing brutal murders, I would seek it, but we know it won’t.”
In shock by the announcement, the family expressed outrage at how the press conference played out, saying they only learned of Mr. Gascón’s decision as it said it live during the press conference.
“How dare you, on national TV, tell me you’re not seeking the death penalty because it won’t bring my son back?” Ms. Clinkunbroomer told Good Morning America. “My son’s not coming back, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your job.”
Criticism came in swiftly from across the state, with a fellow district attorney suggesting the choice of words and how the announcement was made were disrespectful.
“There is not a law on the books that can reincarnate the dead. They know that Ryan is never coming home,” Todd Spitzer, Orange County district attorney, said in a press release Sept. 22. “And now Deputy Clinkunbroomer’s family—and every law enforcement officer in Los Angeles—knows the harsh reality that George Gascón, the person the people of Los Angeles County elected to protect public safety, refuses to seek justice for the men and women who are sworn to protect us all.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna (R) looks on as Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon makes an announcement in charges in the killing of sheriff's deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer at the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
In the same statement, he also questioned Mr. Gascón’s assertion of seeking to prosecute the murderer to the full extent of the law.
“That was a lie. The death penalty still exists in California—no matter how much George Gascón and Governor Gavin Newsom want to pretend it doesn’t,” he said. “But Deputy Clinkunbroomer’s murderer will not have to worry about being executed because Gascón does not believe in the death penalty.”
Technically halted by Mr. Newsom’s 2019 executive order placing a moratorium on the death penalty, in prior years voters twice chose to keep the punishment in place—once in 2012 and again in 2016.
Existing law allows for death penalty convictions—including for the special allegations involved in the deputy’s murder, such as murder of a peace officer, discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, and lying in wait—though no path to execution currently exists, due to the governor’s order.
The suspect in the Clinkunbroomer murder is charged with using a .22-caliber revolver and is currently being held in the Twin Towers jail in downtown Los Angeles awaiting his next court hearing, scheduled for Nov. 7.
At his arraignment Sept. 20, pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity were made by the judge on his behalf.
Suspect Kevin Cataneo Salazar appears in court in front of Judge Scott A.Yang in the Michael Antonovich Antelope Valley Courthouse in Lancaster, Calif., on Sept. 20, 2023. (Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo, Pool)
Speaking of the consequences policies have on public safety, the deputy’s family urged voters to pay attention and demand change.
“Things need to change. People need to be punished for the crimes they commit,” Mr. Clinkunbroomer’s mother said during the same interview with Good Morning America. “I truly hope the people of Los Angeles realize what this district attorney is not doing for us. And I hope when the election comes next, they really think hard about that bubble they fill in.”
With recall efforts currently underway in Los Angeles County to remove the embattled district attorney, organizers of the petition to do so say Mr. Gascón’s recent decision is indicative of his leadership style and suggest the backlash will negatively impact his political career.
“It’s another terrible example where George Gascón is not only going soft on criminals, but also misleading to the public by telling him that he’s seeking the strongest possible penalty when that is absolutely not true,” Tim Lineberger, spokesperson for Recall George Gascón—the group behind the recall, which is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the county over the validation of recall petition signatures—told The Epoch Times.
“The goal is to get him out of office as quickly as possible given the impacts his policies are having.”