PALMDALE (CNS) - A manhunt was underway Sunday for the killer who ambushed a third-generation Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy, who was shot while sitting in his patrol car in front of the department's Palmdale station.
Ryan Clinkunbroomer, 30, was "found in medical distress" at about 6 p.m. Saturday when a good Samaritan stopped to render aid. The wounded deputy was taken to Antelope Valley Medical Center in grave condition.
Shortly after 11 p.m., the department announced Clinkunbroomer had died.
According to media reports, Clinkunbroomer was stopped in a patrol car at a red light when he was shot. He was found in front of the station at Sierra Highway and East Avenue Q with a gunshot wound to the head.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna announced Clinkunbroomer's death during a news conference at the City of Hope Antelope Valley, saying his father and grandfather had also been deputies and that Clinkunbroomer had gotten engaged just four days earlier.
"He didn't deserve this," Luna said "This is so unfair. We're hurting because we lost somebody. It hurts bad. It sucks, just to put it bluntly. Our hearts absolutely go out to his family."
Luna struggled to hold back his emotions while discussing what he described as a targeted ambush killing.
"He was just driving down the street," Luna explained. "And for no apparent reason -- and we're still looking into the specific reasons -- somebody decided to shoot and murder him, I'm assuming at this point, because he was in uniform. That, to me, is sickening. That's not who this community is and that's why we stand up here collectively together really asking our community for your assistance as we move forward."
News of the death prompted a flurry of reactions from local law enforcement colleagues and elected officials who expressed remorse and outrage, with officials pledging to deploy all possible resources to catch his killer.
"The coward who ambushed Deputy Clinkunbroomer last night is still at large and must be brought to justice soon," Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn said in a statement. "I am pledging all the county resources needed to find this murderer and support our deputies in the wake of this vicious attack. If you have any information that could help, I urge you to call LASD Homicide at 323-890-5500 immediately."
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the Palmdale area, said "Words cannot describe my immense sorrow for the tragic loss of a brave deputy's life tonight. My heart breaks for his family, his fellow officers, and the community at large. There are a lot of unanswered questions -- including who committed this heinous and brazen attack and why. Whoever is responsible must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and brought to swift justice."
Luna said homicide detectives were studying videos broadcast during local news reports that appear to show a vehicle drive up behind Clinkunbroomer's patrol car. It was unclear whether this was the suspect, the good Samaritan or someone else. But he also implored anyone who has video or information to provide it to the department.
"We are utilizing every resource available to apprehend the suspect responsible for this heinous crime," the sheriff said. "Somebody saw something. Somebody knows something. There is a family here at this hospital grieving an unimaginable loss. We need your help."
Anyone who witnessed anything related to the shooting, especially in the area of Sierra Highway at around 6 p.m. Saturday, was urged to call the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
A news conference was scheduled for 4 p.m. at the Palmdale station to provide more information about the killing, with Luna, Barger and Captain Andrew Meyer of the sheriff's Homicide Bureau expected to attend.
Luna said Clinkunbroomer was an eight-year veteran of the department and had been with the Palmdale station since July 2018. He served as a field training officer, which Luna said is a role reserved for only "the best of the best."
Last week, Clinkunbroomer's mother, Kim Etzel Clinkunbroomer, posted several photos of her son and his fiancé on Instagram with the message: "We are so excited to add to our family. Congrats to our son Ryan and his fiancé Brittany."
During an overnight procession, law enforcement officers escorted Clinkunbroomer's body to the Los Angeles County coroner's office.
A statement from Gov. Gavin Newsom and Acting Gov. Eleni Kounalakis on Sunday said that in honor of Clinkunbroomer, flags at the state Capitol and Capitol Annex Swing Space will be flown at half-staff.
"Selflessly serving his community, Deputy Clinkunbroomer followed in the steps of his father and grandfather -- entrenching a lasting legacy that forever stands tall," the statement said.
"In this time of mourning, we honor this legacy and send our deepest sympathies to Deputy Clinkunbroomer's fiancée, his loved ones, and the men and women of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Deputy Clinkunbroomer's devotion to community and country will never be forgotten."
Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, posted a video message in which he assailed the gunman, and called for passage of a bill he's written that would make it a federal felony to kill a law enforcement officer, with a penalty no less than life in prison, and execution if possible.
Garcia said he would ask House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
"I am beyond heartbroken, I'm beyond pissed off," Garcia said in the video. "I'm sure that we will find this evil son of a bitch who killed this very special person, someone who was doing the right thing for our country, for our communities, and he'll be brought to justice. But I want you to know that this is why we need to defend everyday our law enforcement, whether it's LAPD, sheriff's or otherwise. These folks put their lives on the line on a daily basis.
"...We have to put something in the form of a deterrence out there to prevent people from killing cops."
The LASD's Palmdale station thanked the community for its support in a message Sunday afternoon, and said the station has decided to cancel all its community engagement events for the week of Sept. 17-23 for mourning.
"We apologize for any inconvenience and we hope we can get back to engaging and building relationships with our community again soon! Thank you for your understanding!" the station posted.
The last Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy shot and killed in the line of duty was Sgt. Steve Owen, 53, a 29-year department veteran who worked out of the Lancaster station and was shot while investigating a reported break- in on Oct. 5, 2016.
Deputy Alejandro Martinez died on July 28, several months after he was struck by a wrong-way vehicle while training with dozens of colleagues near the sheriff's STARS Explorer Academy law enforcement training center in Whittier in November 2022. The driver, 22-year-old Nicholas Joseph Gutierrez of Diamond Bar, told reporters that he fell asleep at the wheel.
Deputy Steve Belanger died on Feb. 6, 2018, succumbing to a gunshot wound sustained on Dec. 10, 1994, when he was ambushed while conducting a traffic stop in the 18400 block of La Guardia Street in Rowland Heights. Doctors were unable to remove the bullet from Belanger's brain, and he remained under constant medical care and confined to a wheelchair until passing away in 2018.