Before he was arrested in the slaying of a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy, a 29-year-old Palmdale man suspected in the killing was diagnosed with schizophrenia, heard voices and twice tried suicide, his mother said Monday.
Kevin Cataneo Salazar, 29, of East Palmdale was arrested Monday morning at the family home, according to vehicle records and neighbors who witnessed the arrest.
Cataneo Salazar’s mother, Marle Salazar, said she and her family were caught off guard when law enforcement raided their Palmdale home.
Cataneo Salazar had been home after the deputy shooting, and despite the news of the deadly attack and the manhunt underway, he didn’t seem upset or nervous, or give any indication of what might have happened.
“My son is mentally ill, and if he did something, he wasn’t in his full mental capacity,” she said in an interview with The Times in Spanish.
“They’re only saying that he was the one that shot the deputy, but nobody is saying he has a record for needing mental help,” she said.
Salazar said her son was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic about five years ago. He’d say he was hearing voices in his head, she said, and sometimes came home telling his parents or siblings that cars or people were following him in the streets.
At times, she said, he’d grow so upset that he would cover his ears with his hands, yell, or stick his head in a trash can to try to drown out the voices.
“We’d ask what he would hear, and he would just get hysterical,” she said.
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He’d grow upset, she said, and she’d try to calm him down. Often after such episodes, Salazar said her son would start to act like a child of about 5 years old and ask to be hugged.
She said she’s called deputies at least twice to the Palmdale home in the past asking for help, when her son refused to take his medication and began to grow aggressive toward himself. But she said Cataneo Salazar had never hurt anyone before, and his aggression was always self-directed.
“I have called the police several times,” she said. “In the end, they would say, ‘He’s an adult, so if he doesn’t want to take [his medication], we can’t do anything.’”
Twice since his diagnosis, she said, he’s attempted suicide. “It’s not my son that did it, it’s the disease that did it,” she said. “They are putting all this out there that my son killed someone, but nobody is saying that my son is sick. He’s sick, and so many people talk about schizophrenia, but then nothing happens.”
She said her son had been hospitalized in Sylmar in the past year and seemed to be doing better. He stopped taking his medication about 10 months ago, but she said he appeared to be “calm,” so she and his family didn’t press it.
When police arrived, she and her family were confused, she said. After the shooting, she said, Cataneo Salazar was acting normal, and there was no indication that a shooting had happened.
“I didn’t know when it happened, I just saw him normal,” she said. “We were here, working, cleaning chairs and tables and he was OK. None of us knew anything.”
She said she was also unaware that Cataneo Salazar owned a gun, but was told by detectives that he had legally purchased a weapon that was used in the attack.
Her son’s Facebook and Instagram bios both read: “Dead in a couple days weeks or years…”
He followed “League of Legends,” a popular video game, writing a rave review online of the multiplayer online battle arena in which he said it deserved a rating of “100/10.”
In a photo posted in September, he posed at the Grove with Charli and Dixie D’Amelio at an event for the influencers’ footwear brand.
Julio Cruz, a neighbor of the suspect’s family, said he “heard police talking over the bullhorn” early Monday morning, “and they were saying, ‘Kevin, come out. Surrender.’”
Few details have been released, but law enforcement sources told The Times authorities launched a massive manhunt after the killing, leading to an East Palmdale neighborhood. Heavily armed deputies in tactical gear took a man into custody during the overnight operation, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
According to surveillance video of the shooting that was shared with The Times, Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer was shot Saturday as he steered his patrol cruiser onto Sierra Highway and stopped at a red light outside the Palmdale sheriff’s station. Seconds later, a dark gray Toyota Corolla can be seen pulling up behind the marked black-and-white cruiser and pausing before speeding off.
In those seconds, authorities said, the 30-year-old deputy was shot in the head. He died from his injuries hours later.
Monday afternoon, relatives at the suspect’s home swept broken glass from a walkway as media approached.
Multiple news cameras were setup on the sidewalk outside the home.
A strong irritant smell wafted from the front door, likely the remnants of the chemicals used to force out the suspect.