WEST HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — The family of a 30-year-old man who was mistakenly shot and killed by deputies in West Hollywood is speaking out.
John Winkler, 30, was killed Monday night after deputies responded to a call of a man with a knife in the 900 block of Palm Avenue. He worked temporarily as a production assistant for the TV show “Tosh.0” on Comedy Central.
Shortly after 9:30 p.m., deputies say two men burst out of an apartment building and ran towards them. The first man who exited was bleeding profusely from the neck. Winkler followed close behind.
The deputies on scene apparently were confused when they saw Winkler “lunging at the back of the fleeing victim,” LASD Chief Bill McSweeney told CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Serene Branson.
Deputies shot Winkler four times and the other victim was shot once. Winkler died from his injuries at a hospital. The other victim is in stable condition and suffered a stab wound to the neck and a bullet to the leg. A third man being held hostage was released from a hospital after being treated for stab wounds to his legs, arms and chest
Investigators now say Winkler and the man who was bleeding were actually victims of a third man, 27-year-old Alexander McDonald, who lived inside the apartment building.
Winkler, who lived above McDonald, got unwittingly involved in the violence when he came down to visit two friends at McDonald’s apartment. The suspect crawled onto his own balcony from outside and held the three men hostage with a butcher knife. Witnesses told deputies McDonald was acting delusional and crazed.
At some point, Winkler and the victim who had been stabbed managed to escape, only to be shot when they exited the building.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Thursday admitted deputies made a deadly mistake this week when they opened fire.
“John was a kind, funny, smart young man, with a bright wit and kind word for anyone that he met,” Winkler’s uncle, Craig Dawson, said in a statement. “We are grasping to understand why he was taken away from us in such a tragic way.”
Winkler was described as “incredibly giving” and “always ready to do anything for friends and family.”
“It is no surprise to us that he put his own life at risk to help a friend,” according to the statement. “This is exactly the quality that made him a very special soul.”
The family also thanked those who have expressed their support and sympathy after the shooting.
“Moving forward, we seek to understand the reasons why the sheriff’s deputies shot and killed John. We know that shooting and killing an innocent man must be a horrible burden for those deputies, and they are in our prayers as well, as they attempt to cope with the circumstances of his death.
“We ask that the media respect our privacy as we attempt to deal with John’s death.”
McDonald was taken to a hospital and treated for minor injuries and released. He is being held on $4.1 million bail.
He pleaded not guilty Thursday to one count each of murder and torture and two counts of attempted murder, according to the District Attorney’s Office. He is due back in court May 8.
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