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Family of Man Shot by Deputies Releases Statement

They want people to remember he was "incredibly giving" and "always ready to do anything for friends and family."

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

The family of a 30-year-old man who was mistakenly shot and killed by deputies sent to a West Hollywood apartment building on a report of an assault by a knife-wielding man issued a statement today praising their loved one, expressing sympathy for the deputies involved and asking the media for privacy.

John Winkler suffered a single fatal gunshot wound around 9:30 p.m. Monday when three deputies opened fire on him as he fled an apartment in the 900 block of Palm Avenue where he and two other men had been attacked by a man who was later taken into custody, according to sheriff's officials.

A friend told the Los Angeles Times that Winkler, who went to the apartment to help his neighbor, had moved to Los Angeles six months ago and had recently been hired as a producer on the Comedy Central series "Tosh.0."

The arrested suspect was identified as 27-year-old Alexander McDonald, Lt. David Coleman of the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau said.

"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 issued on behalf the man's family. "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."

Coleman said the responding deputies were told by informants there were only two males residing in the apartment and described the suspect as a white male with a thin build, wearing a black shirt.

Deputies staged at the front door of the apartment and tried to contact those inside, when "the door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out," Coleman said.

"He was covered in blood and bleeding profusely from the neck. Simultaneously, victim Winkler ran out the door, lunging at the back of the fleeing victim. Both ran directly at the deputies," he said.

"Winkler was similar to the description of the suspect and was wearing a black shirt. Believing Winkler was the assailant and the assault was ongoing and he would attack the entry team, three deputies fired their duty weapons at him. Victim Winkler was struck by the gunfire and fell to the floor, and the male victim also collapsed, struck once by the gunfire."

Deputies then heard the sound of a fight coming from within the apartment and made entry, where they saw another male victim on the living room floor struggling with McDonald, Coleman said.

"Suspect McDonald had overpowered the victim and was choking and tearing at his face," Coleman said, adding that the victim was nearly unconscious and a large knife was on the floor nearby.

The deputies subdued McDonald and took him into custody, Coleman said.

Investigators later learned that McDonald, who lived in the apartment, had allegedly held Winkler and two other men at knifepoint inside, Coleman said.

"In a rage, the suspect began stabbing the men and fighting with them as the deputies arrived," Coleman said. "One of the victims was a roommate of the suspect; Winkler and the other victim were visiting at the time of the incident."

The victim who had run out of the apartment was in stable condition at a hospital, where he was being treated for stab wounds to the neck and a gunshot wound to a leg, while the other victim was released from a hospital after being treated for stab wounds to his legs, arms and chest, Coleman said on Thursday.

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.

--City News Service


Dan P April 12, 2014 at 12:41 AM
This is so sad, and I am very sorry to Winkler's family for their loss. It is also a bit infuriating. I am so sick of hearing these stories over and over of how the police (in general) are so quick to fire their weapons. If not already, they must be trained to use non-lethal force in all but the most dire situations. I don't see how non-lethal weaponry would not have done the job here. First think, then shoot. Cops are not fighting wars; they should not be taking lives... even the lives of criminals, just because they feel that it is justifiable because their own lives are (technically) threatened. If you are not willing to be in the presence of danger, do not become a cop. I do feel bad for the officers who mistakenly killed the victim... to an extent. But if they don't quit from the guilt that is on their conscience already, they most likely are no longer mentally stable enough to continue as police officers (if they are not sociopaths). Police officers must be taught to preserve life at all costs.
A different Paul April 12, 2014 at 12:32 PM
Thin white guy in black t-shirt and jeans could describe a large percentage of young men in Hollywood. The officers responsible have to feel terrible about this- but I agree- law enforcement needs to start aiming for non-lethal areas of the body. They can't be so quick to shoot without thinking. Their job is to not lose their heads. This is a very sad story for everyone involved. Even the kid with the knife- sounds like some sort of mental break that he is going to be horrified to wake up from.
jimmy palmieri April 12, 2014 at 03:29 PM
THE LEG....THE LEG.....AIM AT THE LEG FOR CHRIST'S SAKE.
joninla April 12, 2014 at 06:31 PM
The sadness is overshadowed by what is inconceivable to me with LETHAL FORCE being used by our contracted official law enforcement for West Hollywood. Yes a plan to shoot for a leg or non-vital organ would should be the quid pro quo in dangerous neighborhoods. In our over-densely-populated community/city, any use of a gun should be for ONLY known serious risk ... not even 'looks risky' but actual risk. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WITH GUN USE IS SO QUICKLY USED IN SUCH AN INSANELY DENSE POPULATED AREA. How about 'a team' of trained, professional, protected and acting within near steps of the Sheriff's station, working to SUBDUE a potential risk. How many Sheriff's does it take to physically subdue a person without the HORRIBLE OUTCOME of this SHOOT FIRST. How about pepper spray, then taser, rubber bullets ..... My heart goes to the family and my disgust for this even happening in our tiny city by a small paid department from the County Sheriff's Department. god!!
George April 13, 2014 at 02:47 PM
He was a dear sweet boy who always had a nice smile followed by good morning to greet me at the gym. I will miss him deeply. Heaven has a new angel. RIP

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