Slaying of California deputy reignites death penalty debate

LOS ANGELES – The debate over capital punishment in California has resurfaced with the family of slain Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer incensed by District Attorney George Gascón’s decision not to seek the death penalty for the alleged killer.

“I don’t feel [Gascón] felt my son’s life was worth anything,” Kim Clinkumbroomer, his mother, told KTLA’s Rich Chambers on Wednesday. “You’re telling me that this individual’s life is more important than my son’s.”

“He’s just making us feel like we’re nobody, and we’re not important enough and Ryan’s life wasn’t important enough,” said Brittany Lindsey, Clinkunbroomer’s fiancée.

Ryan Clinkunbroomer, Brittany Lindsey
Ryan Clinkunbroomer, Brittany Lindsey

Prosecutors say Kevin Salazar, 29, fatally shot Clinkunbroomer with a .22 revolver on Sept. 16 as the deputy was stopped at a red light in his patrol vehicle near the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station.

Salazar, whose family says suffers from mental health issues, was arrested two days later after a standoff at his Palmdale home. According to ABC News, Salazar has confessed.

Capital punishment is still an option for California prosecutors. However, it has been 17 years since an inmate was executed in the Golden State, and, in 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order enacting a moratorium.

The debate over executing inmates in California and elsewhere has often fallen along party lines with more Republicans supporting its use vs. Democrats. That said, a 2021 Pew Research Center survey found that 60% of American adults, regardless of political party, favor the death penalty for those convicted of murder.

Man arrested in slaying of L.A. County deputy schizophrenic, family says
Kevin Salazar, 29, was arrested in connection with the ambush-style slaying of an L.A. County Deputy on Sept. 16, 2023. (@satellited_zombie)

In his executive order, Newsom called the death penalty system a “failure” that has discriminated against the mentally ill, poor, and people of color, and has “wasted” billions of taxpayer dollars through endless appeals.

Opponents also argue that the death penalty does not serve as a deterrent to violent crime.

Instead of the death penalty, Gascon says his office will pursue -what he calls- the “maximum punishment available” in the Salazar case, meaning life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Clinkunbroomer’s family disagrees.

“Just to say that it’s okay for [Salazar] to spend the rest of his life in prison … that we’re going to try to seek the maximum penalty. If you’re trying to seek the maximum penalty, it’s the death penalty.”

In a statement to KTLA, Gascón said he stands behind his decision.

“Even if the death penalty were sought and a jury handed down such a sentence, it is highly probable that the individual would die of natural causes before being executed. If found guilty, this person will never be released from prison.”

Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer’s funeral is scheduled for Oct. 5. He will be laid to rest at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale.

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