In a tragic case of mistaken identity, authorities on Thursday revealed that Los Angeles County deputies shot a man who they believed was attacking another man, but who was actually a victim of a knife attack fleeing his assailant. The incident occurred at a West Hollywood apartment on Monday night. The man shot by police has been identified as John Winkler,30, who moved to West Los Angeles six months ago in hopes of launching a television production career. Winkler was taken to a hospital, where he died Monday night.
According to a statement released by the Sheriff’s Department, Winkler and two other man were taken hostage by knife-wielding Alexander McDonald, who was the roommate of one of the victims. Inside the Palm Avenue apartment, McDonald, 27, flew into a rage, fighting with and stabbing the men.
Sheriff’s deputies learned of the hostage incident when they received a report of “assault with a deadly weapon, man with a knife” at the apartment complex. Upon arriving at the scene, the deputies knocked on the door but there was no answer. All of a sudden, the door opened and a man who was “covered in blood and bleeding profusely from the neck” ran out. Behind the bloody man was Winkler, who, according to the Sheriff Department’s statement, looked like he was “lunging” at the first man. Both men appeared to be running straight for the deputies, according to the statement, which led them to believe that Winkler would attack them next. In addition, the deputies had been informed that the attacker was a thin white male wearing a black shirt. According to Interim Sheriff of Los Angeles County John Scott, Winkler was thin, white and dressed in a black shirt that night. Three of the deputies on the scene fired their weapons and ultimately hit both men. The first man to run out, covered in blood, suffered a gunshot wound to the leg and was taken to the hospital where he was listed in stable condition. Winkler was fatally wounded by a single bullet.
Hearing sounds of a fight inside, deputies entered the apartment, where they saw McDonald on the floor allegedly choking a man, who had sustained stab wounds along with other injuries. He was treated at the hospital and released. McDonald was arrested and received treatment for minor wounds. He has been charged with attempted murder, murder and torture and is currently in jail under a bail amount of $4.1 million, which was raised from an initial amount of $2 million during his arraignment hearing today. McDonald, a computer programmer with no prior history of arrest or violence, entered a plea of not guilty at Thursday’s proceedings.
Winkler’s roommate, Devin Richardson, told the Los Angeles Times that Winkler had not initially been involved in the attack and was not taken hostage, but had hurried to the apartment to aid his friends when he heard screaming coming from inside.
Scott described the shooting as “very tragic,” according to the Times. Winkler, who was initially from Washington, had been working freelance as a production assistant on Comedy Central’s Tosh.0.
By Jennifer Pfalz