Crime & Justice

Family of man killed by LA County sheriff's deputies in West Hollywood files $25M claim (update)

Interim LA County Sheriff John Scott, who replaced longtime Sheriff Lee Baca, has dealt with a number of significant issues since taking office, including the shooting by deputies of an innocent man in West Hollywood.
Interim LA County Sheriff John Scott, who replaced longtime Sheriff Lee Baca, has dealt with a number of significant issues since taking office, including the shooting by deputies of an innocent man in West Hollywood.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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3:40 p.m. LA County government, sheriff's department respond to claim filed by John Winkler's family

Sheriff's spokeswoman Nicole Nishida says the department has not yet received the claim. But when it does, it will investigate the allegations. She added that the deputies involved in the incident were put back on their regular patrol duties last week.

Assistant County Counsel Roger Granbo says his office will review the claim, discuss it with the sheriff's department, and then see if they can resolve it with the family. He said the sheriff's department has reached out to Winkler's family.

"Obviously, deputies had information that led them to believe they were shooting at a suspect," Granbo said. "I haven't spoken with the deputiesm but I've heard they feel terrible. It's really a tragic situation."

12:58 p.m.: Family of man killed by LA County sheriff's deputies in West Hollywood files $25M claim (update)

The family of a man shot and killed earlier this month by sheriff's deputies in West Hollywood filed a $25 million claim against L.A. County on Tuesday. The claim is a precursor to filing a lawsuit.

John Winkler, a production assistant on the cable television show Tosh.O, was fatally shot April 7 as he fled an apartment where he and two others were being held hostage by a man with a knife, according to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

Related: LA County sheriff's deputies mistakenly shoot hostage, suspect charged with murder

The department's official account says deputies were called to the scene where Alexander McDonald had attacked his roommate, two visitors and was holding them hostage at knifepoint.

Deputies were trying to make contact with the people in the apartment, when the door burst open, and two men came running out. Liam Mulligan, who was "bleeding profusely from the neck," followed by Winkler, "lunging" at Mulligan's back, according to the sheriff's department. Deputies, mistook Winkler for the armed suspect, opened fire and hit both men, according to the sheriff's department. Winkler died soon after at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Mulligan survived.

Interim Sheriff John Scott called the shooting an accident and "a police officer's greatest nightmare."

The sheriff's department account paints a picture of confused deputies, who opened fire in the belief Winkler was trying to attack Mulligan.

Winkler's family, who live in Seattle, said the deputies perceived danger did not justify shooting at two fleeing victims.

"John Winkler had committed no crime," the claim filed Tuesday said. "He had made no offensive moves towards the sheriff's deputies. The sheriff's deputies had a picture of the person holding the hostages.. but nevertheless opened fire on Liam Mulligan and John Winkler, neither of whom resemble [the suspect]."

The county now has to opportunity to respond to the claim. If they do not, Winkler's family is clear to file a lawsuit, which they plan to do.

Claim against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on behalf of John Winkler