When tragedy shook the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department with the execution of one of their deputies outside the Palmdale Station on September 16th, little did we know our sense of safety in Los Angeles County would hit an unprecedented crisis level.
The brazen act of Kevin Cataneo Salazar, 27, rolling up to deputy sheriff Ryan Clinkunbroomer’s marked black and white as he was waiting at a stoplight, executing the unsuspecting deputy in what appeared to be an intentional and premeditated murder of a law enforcement officer, sent shockwaves of horror across LA County.
And now, to elevate that fear, the man tasked with the safety of over 10 million residents, Sheriff Robert Luna, who ran away with the 2022 Sheriff’s election to become the leader of the largest Sheriff’s department in the country, is also running away from taking responsibility to properly ensure the full prosecution of his own deputy’s murder.
At a press conference on September 18th, shortly after the suspect was apprehended and just 36 hours after Clinkunbroomer’s murder, Luna declared his expectations, regarding the punishment for the execution of his law enforcement officer:
“We are devastated by the brutal murder of Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer and share in the grief with his family, partners, and community as we try to grapple with this tragedy,” said Luna. “This ambush attack was absolutely unacceptable and an attack on law enforcement as a whole. Deputy Clinkunbroomer was in uniform, stopped at a red light in his patrol vehicle like thousands of other law enforcement officers and deputies do every day when he tragically lost his life while serving his community… Our detectives and personnel worked relentlessly for thirty-six hours to locate and arrest the suspect responsible for Ryan’s murder and we support the charges that were filed today. We expect the maximum punishment available under the law for the murder of Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer.”
Read that last sentence again.
“We expect the maximum punishment available under the law for the murder of Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer.”
It is no secret Luna has eroded trust throughout the department and the county, specifically for those who are concerned with public safety and the loss of law enforcement personnel due to the defund-the-police environment, however, he, in this instance and at that moment, assured the case against Salazar would be “meticulously presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for filing considerations, underscoring our unwavering commitment to pursuing justice to the fullest extent of the law”.
That small glimmer of hope Luna would step up and do right by the rank and file, especially his murdered deputy and grieving family and partners, dissipated quickly.
On Wednesday, Sept. 20, DA George Gascón announced that he would seek the “maximum penalty allowable under the law” for Salazar, which seemed to be in lock step with Luna’s expectations of the District Attorney’s office.
Or maybe not.
Somewhere along the line, there was a communication breakdown and a glaring misunderstanding. Not between Luna and Gascon, between Luna and Gascon notifying the family.
What Luna and Gascon believed the maximum penalty meant was starkly different than what is stated in the penal code, specifically the special circumstances involving lying in wait and the execution of a peace officer.
At the press conference held at the Hall of Justice on September 20th, Gascon, in front of the slain deputy’s family, fiancé and partners, unapologetically disregarded Penal Code 187 PC first-degree murder, with special circumstances.
“If I thought that seeking the death penalty was going to bring Ryan back to us, I would seek it without any reservation,” he said in a recent news conference. “But it won’t.”
This mentality underscores the fact that Gascon will never seek the death penalty, no matter how heinous the act.
Luna appeared to be unsurprised and unfazed by Gascon’s intention not to seek the death penalty.
Clinkunbroomer’s mother Kim, however, was blindsided by Gascon’s failure to seek the death penalty and was given no prior knowledge of Gascon’s intentions by Luna, LASD or the DA’s office. Clinkunbroomer took her fury to the national news media.
“How dare you, on national TV, tell me you’re not seeking the death penalty because it won’t bring my son back? My son’s not coming back, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your job,” said Clinkunbroomer.
Many in LA County have grown accustomed to DA Gascon’s inappropriate, tone deaf behavior and never ending gaslighting as evidenced by his actions, whether it be belittling victims at a press conference or deflecting attention from the catastrophic rise in crime in Los Angeles of which he singlehandedly created through his horrific policies, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee the county.
What the citizens of LA County are not accustomed to is the leader of the largest Sheriff’s department in the country standing idly by while the District Attorney diminishes the value of his own murdered deputy, in front of his family and partners who valiantly tried to save his life moments after he was ambushed, by not denouncing the DA’s refusal to seek the maximum penalty allowed by law, he himself promised would be pursued.
A video obtained by The Current Report uploaded to the LA County District Attorney’s office social media shortly after Luna took office, shows him expressing the true sentiment and foundation of his relationship with George Gascon.
The mentorship as described by Luna in the video exposes the real potential for public safety to reach catastrophic conditions with these two officials in power, colluding together with other county officials.
It also indicates there is a high probability that Luna had full knowledge of Gascon’s intention not to seek the death penalty prior to the press conference – yet chose not to discuss the possibilities with the family, which ultimately shows where Luna’s true loyalties lie.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, front and center during the press conferences after Clinkunbroomer’s ambush, was conspicuously absent from this press conference and made no statement regarding Gascon’s decision not to seek the death penalty, after assuring the public the maximum punishment would be sought for the crime.
Gascon’s consistent lack of decorum and professionalism reached new heights by allowing his publicly known cop-hating director of communications, Tiffany Blacknell, to introduce him at the press conference regarding the charges against the murderer of a law enforcement officer.
“… Luna stood right next to the DA in solidarity. Unreal his line deputies even acknowledge him any longer” a member of law enforcement posted on X (formerly known as Twitter).
To date, Luna has made no official statement to LASD personnel or to the public via official department communication expressing his disappointment with Gascon’s failure to pursue the maximum penalty allowed by law and his failure communicate with the family prior to the press conference.
Shortly after the Clinkunbroomer family outrage made network news, Luna appeared on ABC 7 in an attempt to do much needed damage control.
He spoke with reporter Marc Brown about the controversies surrounding the department and made every attempt to deflect responsibility and criticism away from himself, and carefully skirted the issue of Gascon’s failure to pursue the maximum punishment for the assassination of his own deputy.
In the interview, Luna suggested he is supporting the rank and file, specifically the Palmdale station deputies, which department sources reveal couldn’t be further from the truth as reported by The Current Report in the second “Just a Deputy” letter circulated after Clinkunbroomer’s execution just outside their station.
The first letter surfaced after public and internal backlash resulting from the Lancaster and Palmdale Use of Force videos and highlighted the mishandling by LASD executive staff who resurrected a UOF incident one year after the fact (and resolved under the previous administration) to appease those who oppose and desire to dismantle/abolish law enforcement.
Additionally, Luna explained to Brown the unprecedented meteoric rise in crime in Los Angeles, was really just public “perception”. Retired LASD Captain Mike Bornman addressed Luna’s defective data meant to deflect responsibility from his colleague and mentor DA Gascon in an exclusive OP ED for The Current Report:
“Well, Sheriff, tell that to people who have been victimized by violent crime recently in LA County. To those folks, I’m guessing we can simply tell them to “look at the data” and calm down. We all know how statistics and data can be tweaked to mean whatever you want them to. More to the point, the Sheriff’s statement completely ignores other “lesser” offenses such as vandalism, petty theft, public intoxication, simple battery, along with the drugged-out zombies who wander our neighborhoods in droves.”
Mired in his own criticism recently, Orange County Todd Spritzer still took the time to support the citizens of LA County by publicly ostracizing DA Gascon for his inability to apply the letter of the law to the “heinous crime” (Gascon’s own words in his press release regarding Cataneo’s arrest).
It is apparent by his actions Gascon did not believe the crime was heinous enough to seek the maximum penalty allowed by law.
“While law enforcement officers across the nation grieve the loss of yet another officer murdered in the line of duty,” said Spitzer, “They too must cope with the knowledge that justice for the men and women behind the badge is nowhere to be found the Los Angeles County Hall of Justice – as long as George Gascón is the district attorney.”
On Thursday, Luna was the first department speaker to address mourners attending Clinkunbroomer’s mass at Cathedral of our Lady of Angels, the majority of the standing room only in attendance were LASD rank and file.
While other law enforcement speakers words elicited rousing standing ovations, the conclusion of Luna’s speech, which echoed the same unpolished, uncomfortable demeanor he exhibited at previous press conferences, was met with the same non-responsive attitude Luna displayed when Gascon announced he would not be pursuing the death penalty; deafening silence.
Sadly, it appears the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has unknowingly been influenced by Gascon’s mentorship, sought by Luna dating back more than two decades, with the former cop-turned-cop-hater now having a profound and damaging effect on the future of the department and public safety in LA County.