Family of the 29-year-old man arrested Monday morning in connection with the fatal ambush-style shooting of a Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff who was sitting in his patrol vehicle in the Antelope Valley over the weekend, are speaking out about his struggles with mental health.
Authorities believe Kevin Salazar ambushed and killed Deputy Ryan “Clink” Clinkunbroomer, 30, an eight-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, at around 6 p.m. Saturday while the deputy sat at a red light near the intersection of Sierra Highway and Avenue Q in Palmdale. He was rushed to the Antelope Valley Medical Center where he later died as a result of his injuries.
After an hours-long standoff Monday morning, in which neighbors were evacuated and SWAT officers deployed tear gas, Salazar was taken into custody around 5 a.m. outside his Palmdale home.
The 29-year-old’s family told KTLA they were shocked by his early morning arrest and that he’s never hurt anyone before.
Jessica Salazar, the suspect’s sister, said this is in no way an excuse for his actions, but that her brother is in need of professional help, that he’s been battling mental health issues and had stopped taking his medications.
“We’re not justifying anything,” Jessica said. “We feel for that family. It hurts. Nobody wishes to go through that, but I do want you guys to know that my brother had schizophrenia. He had paranoia. He heard voices.”
According to Dr. Evita Limon Rocha, a psychiatrist with Kaiser Permanente, schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder. She says that among the symptoms can be misinterpreting one’s environment, delusions, as well as hearing and seeing things that other people can’t hear or see.
“Treatment typically entails working with a mental health provider, such as a psychiatrist to treat the invidual with a variety of medications, typically a category of medicines that we call anti-psychotics,” she explained. “And to try and find the right medication for the patient, it’s a discussion about risk benefits and alternatives.”
Dr. Rocha added that if you’re ever concerned about a loved one struggling with these types of mental health issues, it’s critical to find support.
“Whether it may be seeking crisis support, whether it be 988, 911 or going to the nearest emergency room,” she said. “Or if we are concerned and want more information, going to our internal medicine doctor or if it’s a child, a pediatrician.”
Salazar’s mother told the Los Angeles Times that she called enforcement in the past asking for help when her son refused to take his medications and was told there was nothing that they could do since he was an adult. She also said her son had been hospitalized within the last year, but lately had seemed as if he was doing better.
One local psychiatric hospital tells KTLA 5’s Rachel Menitoff that family members are often in a bind. They can go the legal route and petition for conservatorship or hope that their loved one wants to get treatment for him or herself.
“Just know that we tried helping my brother with schizophrenia,” the 29-year-old’s sister said. “A lot of people who know, who have family members with the same situation will understand how it’s so hard to want to help a loved one and knowing that their mind is not in the right state of mind.”
There are resources for individuals and families in need of help. A good first step is the National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI, which has a program called Family to Family to help people better understand a mental health system that can be complicated and challenging.
Approximately 1,000 people showed up at the sheriff’s station for a vigil Sunday night in honor of Deputy Clinkunbroomer.