WEST HOLLYWOOD—The family of a man mistakenly gunned-down by police is now suing the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for negligence and the use of excessive force.
John Winkler, an aspiring TV producer, had moved to West Hollywood from Washington State to pursue his career. Days before his killing, he had been hired as a production assistant for the comedy show “Tosh.O.”
On the night of April 7, Winkler came to an apartment complex on the 900 block of Palm Avenue to visit a friend. It was there that he and two others were taken hostage at knifepoint.
Fleeing from their assailant, Winkler and another hostage ran out of the complex covered in blood.
As Winkler came running behind the first hostage, deputies believed Winkler to be in pursuit of the hostage, confusing him for the stabbing suspect and opening fire.
One shot hit Winkler, killing the 30-year-old.
The true stabbing suspect, Alexander McDonald, was subsequently arrested at the apartment complex. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, attempted murder, and torture.
The Sheriff’s Department released a press release on April 8, the day after the shooting that had no no mention of confusing Winkler’s identity, saying that the men that had been shot had “aggressed the deputies.”
“My son was helping a wounded friend escape a dangerous situation, but the greater threat was just outside the door,” Winkler’s mother Lisa Ostergren said. “Law enforcement must change the way they approach hostage situations so tragedies like this don’t happen again.”