Crime & Justice

LA County Sheriff’s Department admits to accidental killing in West Hollywood

Photo by Harvey K via Flickr Creative Commons

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department admitted Thursday that deputies mistakenly shot and killed a man who they thought was a suspect in an assault with a knife that occurred in West Hollywood Monday.

West Hollywood resident John Winkler, 30, was visiting an apartment in the 900 block of Palm Avenue where deputies were responding to an assault with a deadly weapon call. Informants told deputies that two males were inside and described the suspect as a thin white male wearing a black shirt, according to a Sheriff’s department statement.

When Winkler and another man, who was bleeding heavily from the neck, fled the apartment, deputies believed Winkler was the suspect since he matched the attacker’s description and shot him around 9:29 p.m. The other victim was hit once with gunfire.

After entering the apartment, deputies found the actual suspect, Alexander McDonald, holding down and choking another victim as a knife lay nearby. Police subdued and arrested McDonald.

Since the incident, investigators learned that McDonald, 27, was a resident of the apartment who held Winkler and two other men captive at knifepoint.

Winkler was transported to a hospital where he died from a single gunshot wound. The other victim who fled with him is being treated for a gunshot wound and stab wounds but is in stable condition. The victim found inside the apartment was treated for multiple stab wounds and released from the hospital.

McDonald is being charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and one count of torture. His bail has been increased from $2 million to $4 million.

The authorities are still investigating the accidental shooting and McDonald's alleged stabbings. 

Winkler had recently moved from Washington state to southern California to work in the entertainment industry, according to Anna Grimes, a longtime neighbor from Puyallup, Washington.

"He was hoping to make it in movie producing or directing, something in the movies," Grimes told KPCC. 

Winkler's parents, who also live in Puyallup, have been traveling out of the country, she said, adding that they are expected to return Thursday night.

Winkler was "a great guy," said Grimes. "He was smiling all the time, and just friendly to everyone."

This story has been updated.