The family of the man accused of killing a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy in what authorities have described as a targeted “ambush” said he suffered from mental health issues.
Jessica Salazar, the sister of Kevin Salazar, told Fox Los Angeles that her brother was not in the right mental state when he allegedly shot and killed Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer on Saturday.
“My brother’s getting called a coward. He wasn’t in his right state of mind,” she said. “My brother did have schizophrenia. He did have paranoia.”
Kevin Salazar, 29, allegedly shot and killed Clinkunbroomer, a 30-year-old field training officer, outside the Palmdale Sheriff’s station, located northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
Clinkunbroomer was found unconscious with a gunshot wound in his patrol vehicle. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna on Monday described the murder as an ambush killing.
Investigators have not determined a motive for the deadly shooting. Salazar was arrested Monday morning in Palmdale following a standoff with authorities.
“We’re extremely confident we have the right person in custody,” Luna said.
Salazar’s mother, Marle Salazar, told the Los Angeles Times that her son was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic several years ago and that she called the Sheriff’s Department at least twice when he refused to take his medication and became aggressive.
She said he had been hospitalized but had stopped taking his medication about 10 months ago.
“My son is mentally ill, and if he did something, he wasn’t in his full mental capacity,” she told the newspaper. “They’re only saying that he was the one that shot the deputy, but nobody is saying he has a record for needing mental help.”
She said her son was home with family after the shooting and didn’t appear to show any signs of nervousness or that he had been involved. She told the Times that he owned a gun.
Of his alleged mental state, Jessica Salazar said the family was “not justifying” her brother’s alleged actions.
“We feel for the family,” she said. “It hurts. Nobody wishes to go through that.”
On Monday, Luna was asked about Salazar’s potential mental health issues.
“Think about this,” he said. “If I had to go to your family and tell them that you were not coming home and were just murdered, does it matter what the person was thinking or their condition?”