The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has admitted its deputies fatally shot an innocent man escaping a hostage situation in West Hollywood.
The admission comes days after the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) initially claimed that John Winkler, who had tried to help two friends held at knifepoint in a nearby apartment, had “aggressed the deputies” as he and another victim fled the attacker.
According to his family, Winkler, 30, had moved to Los Angeles six months ago with hopes of breaking into the entertainment industry. He had recently worked as a temporary production assistant on Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0.”
On Monday night, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies responded to a call of an assault with a deadly weapon in a West Hollywood apartment complex.
After the deputies “announced themselves” at the apartment, receiving no response, the door suddenly burst open. Winkler came running out, “lunging at the back of the fleeing victim,” according to LASD.
“The apartment door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out,” an LASD statement said. “He was covered in blood and bleeding profusely from the neck. Simultaneously, victim Winkler ran out of the door, lunging at the back of the fleeing victim. Both ran directly at the deputies.”
The deputies fired once at Winkler. He was taken to the hospital where he died of the wound.
The other victim, who already had stab wounds to the neck, was shot in the leg. He is in stable condition, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Winkler was wearing a black shirt, which, in part, fit the description of the suspect. The deputies believed that “Winkler was the assailant and the assault was ongoing and he would attack the entry team.”
After shooting the pair, the deputies heard commotion in the apartment. They found the suspect, Alexander McDonald, choking another victim and “tearing at his face,” officials said. McDonald, 27, was apprehended and has been charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and one count of torture.
The third victim had stab wounds to the leg, arms, and chest, but has been released from the hospital.
McDonald had held two victims hostage when Winkler, according to a friend, heard commotion in the apartment and rushed over.
“It's just a really sad story,” Devin Richardson said. “He basically went to help some neighbors and ends up getting shot.”
Richardson added that Winkler was friends with the two victims.
No charges against the deputies have been announced. The LASD says an internal investigation of the incident has begun.
Interim Sheriff John Scott on Thursday called the shooting “very tragic.”