A Hollywood production assistant was mistakenly killed by deputies during a chaotic confrontation involving a knife-wielding suspect who held three men hostage, including the victim, and stabbed at least two of them, the L.A. County Sheriff's Department said this afternoon.
The victim was identified as John Winkler, a 30-year-old P.A. for Comedy Central's Tosh.0 show.
Deputies responding to a “man-with-a-knife” call Monday night in West Hollywood believed that Winkler fit the description of the suspect, the department stated:
Contrary to its initial account of the 9:31 p.m. incident at an apartment complex at 939 Palm Ave., the Sheriff's Department now says that two innocents were struck by gunfire:
As deputies continued attempts to contact the people in the apartment, the apartment door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out. 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. 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 said they were originally told only two men were in the apartment, indicating that cops believed the two who burst toward them were victim and suspect.
But after the shooting, deputies went inside – and found the man they now say is the real suspect on top of a victim, choking him and “tearing at his face,” the department's statement said:
Deputies could see the victim was about to go unconscious and a large knife was on the floor near them. The deputies were able to use physical force to subdue the suspect and end the assault. The suspect was taken into custody without further incident.
Sheriff's investigators now say that the alleged choker, Alexander McDonald, was the thin man in a black shirt that they were looking for. Deputies allege that he held the later fatally shot Winkler and two others captive inside an apartment before allegedly stabbing them and fighting it out with them as they tried to subdue him, according to the statement:
One of the victims was a roommate of the suspect; Winkler and the other victim were visiting at the time of the incident.
No less than three people contacted the Weekly prior to today's revelations to say that the department's original version of events, including that the man they killed – John Winkler – had “aggressed” toward officers, was sorely wrong. But none would speak for the record.
Deputies say Winkler died after he was taken to a hospital. But the L.A. County Fire Department twice told us he was dead upon their arrival at the complex.
The surviving victim who was also shot took a round to the leg and was hospitalized in stable condition, officials said. He also sustained stab wounds to his neck, they said. And a third man sustained stab wounds to his legs, arms and chest but was already out of the hospital, authorities said.
The District Attorney's office charged McDonald with “one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and one count of torture,” the Sheriff's Department said. He was being held in lieu of $4 million bail, according to the sheriff's statement. Sheriff's inmate data indicate's he's 27.
Variety reports that Winkler came to L.A. from Washington six months ago to work in Hollywood.