LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The family of an aspiring television producer who
was mistakenly shot and killed by deputies sent to a West Hollywood apartment
building to investigate an assault report filed a $25 million claim today
against Los Angeles County.
County officials had no immediate response to the claim, which is the
precursor to a lawsuit. The family said it plans to file the lawsuit in Los
Angeles federal court, alleging the sheriff’s deputies, among other causes,
violated John Winkler’s civil rights in shooting and killing him.
The claim alleges that Winkler was one of three hostages held captive by
Alexander McDonald inside an apartment. While Winkler helped a severely
injured friend who had been stabbed by the assailant, sheriff’s deputies
mistakenly shot Winkler as he exited the apartment, killing him, according to
“I don’t think there is any burden greater for a parent to bear than
burying their child, and John’s parents also have to endure the knowledge that
his death was eminently avoidable had the sheriff’s deputies exercised any
degree of prudency before opening fire,” said Sim Osborn, the attorney
representing Winkler’s family.
“We hope that the legal filing will help us understand how the deputies
could have shot two innocent young men, mistaking them both for the
assailant, tragic decisions leading to tragic outcomes.”
The claim asks for $25 million in damages for Winkler’s death.
“Words simply cannot convey how devastated we are over John’s death,”
, Winkler’s mother. “He was the sort of bright spirit that
touched everyone he met, and the senselessness of his death makes it even more
The 30-year-old Winkler had recently completed his education at the
Seattle Film Institute. He had moved to Los Angeles six months earlier from
Washington state and had recently been hired as a production assistant on the
Comedy Central series “Tosh.0,” his family said.
“We spent a lot of time discussing whether we should file this action,
but at the end of the day, my family is owed truth and accountability,”
Ostergren said. “I am filing this not as John’s mother, but as every mother,
hoping to protect them from enduring what we are going through.”
Said Osborn: “Unfortunately, victims like John and his family have
little leverage or power to seek truth or to demand accountability through
means other than legal action. Lisa and her family deserve to know how and why
the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department failed so horribly that it cost John his
According to Osborn, the sheriff’s department had a description of
McDonald and even a photo of him.
“We have many questions for the LASD, including how they could have
confused McDonald for John two very different looking men when witnesses had
given them a photo just moments earlier,” Osborn said.
The sheriff’s department is conducting an investigation of the April 7
shooting, Osborn said.
According to Osborn, Winkler was visiting a friend’s apartment in the
900 block of Palm Avenue with three other friends when McDonald, a resident of
that apartment, suddenly began stabbing one of the men.
Alerted by other residents of McDonald’s unusual behavior, sheriff’s
deputies came to the scene, and when Winkler and one of the other men attempted
to escape the apartment, sheriff’s deputies shot them both, killing Winkler and
injuring the other man.
McDonald, 27, was apprehended in the apartment. He has been charged with
one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and one count of
torture. and is being held on $4-million bail, officials said.