LOS ANGELES — The man accused of fatally shooting a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy on Sept. 16 pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity on Wednesday.
Kevin Cataneo Salazar, 29, entered the plea through his attorney, George Rosenstock, during his arraignment in a Los Angeles County court, according to the Los Angeles Times. Salazar is accused of killing Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer, 30, who was sitting in a patrol car waiting for a light to change near the sheriff’s office station in Palmdale, California.
Salazar was charged with one count of murder, KABC-TV reported. He also faces charges of special circumstance allegations of murder of a peace officer, murder committed by lying in wait, murder committed by firing from a car and personal use of a firearm, according to The Associated Press.
Rosenstock did not respond to a request for comment, the Times reported.
Salazar surrendered to police on Monday following a standoff of several hours. Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said. Video obtained by the television station showed a man with his hands up as he was being detained in Palmdale early Monday.
A motive in the shooting is unclear, according to the Times. Salazar did not have a criminal record before his arrest Monday.
The suspect’s mother, Marle Salazar, told the newspaper in an interview that her son had been diagnosed with schizophrenia about five years ago and the family had struggled with his illness for years. She added that Kevin Salazar had attempted suicide at least twice and was hospitalized twice due to mental health crises, the Times reported.
“Please don’t judge him as if he was a regular person,” the suspect’s sister, Yessica Salazar, told the Los Angeles Daily News. “He is sick.”
“Whether mental health is a factor or not, think about this,” Luna said during the news conference. “If I had to go to your family and tell them that you were not coming home and you were just murdered, does it matter what the person was thinking or their condition?”
Deputy District Attorney Michael Blake said Clinkunbroomer was “clearly targeted,” KTLA-TV reported. Authorities are still investigating whether Salazar had any previous contact with the deputy, according to the television station.
During a news conference on Wednesday, District Attorney George Gascón called the deputy’s death “cowardly and senseless.”
“We’re going to do everything within our legal power to make sure that this defendant never gets out of prison,” Gascón said.
Brittany Lindsey, Clinkunbroomer’s fiancee, attended the news conference and told reporters that the deputy was “the best guy I ever met.”
“I couldn’t wait to start our lives together,” Lindsey said.
Salazar is scheduled to appear in court again on Nov. 7, the Times reported.