By Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California
The man shot to death by Los Angeles County Sheriff deputies early this week, John Winkler, 30, of West Hollywood, was an innocent victim, say Sheriff Homicide investigators.
Not only that, but media accounts that portrayed the victim, John Winkler, as “Good Samaritan” have it all wrong, said the detective in charge of the investigation.
The Sheriff’s Department today explained in detail account of what they learned so far about the deputy involved shooting that left one West Hollywood resident dead and another wounded by gunfire.
What Detective Lt. Dave Coleman told WeHo News today differed in substance from previous news accounts, something he credited to something akin to the haze of battle.
“The past couple of day we haven’t gotten much in the way of sleep,” he said, wanting to get the answers correct. “There are a lot of people out there who think we’re hiding something, but we want to get accurate information out to the public. That takes time and effort,” said Lt. Coleman.
He said that Alexander McDonald, age 27, a resident at 939 Palm Ave., had returned to the apartment complex, but not his residence, on Monday night. He instead visited two women who live down the hall from him.
He threatened and harassed them; the women saying he was acting crazy and unlike they had ever seen him. He soon took a large knife and then disappeared, apparently to wander the apartment complex, said Lt. Coleman. The women called the West Hollywood Sheriff’s station.
All the while, Mr. McDonald’s unsuspecting roommate and two of his friends, including Mr. Winkler, were “hanging out in the suspect’s apartment,” Lt. Coleman said that Mr. McDonald entered the building again from the garage. Speaking about reports that had Mr. Winkler coming downstairs to quell the violence, “Absolutely not true,” said Lt. Coleman. “I don’t know where they got it, but not from me.”
Mr. McDonald, according to Lt. Coleman, climbed the gate onto the balcony of his apartment and surprised the trio. He acted in a way none had eve before witnessed, agitated, even violent, say the victims.
He held them at knifepoint while appearing quite agitated and demanding they turn their cell phones over to him. Soon, in a rage and due to what Lt. Coleman suspects was the realization that the Sheriff was on the way, the suspect began stabbing the men and fighting with them. It remains unclear as to why that happened; according to neighbors’ accounts, as Mr. McDonald was an otherwise quiet man.
The responding deputies had been told by informants there were only two males residing in the apartment and described the suspect as a male, white, thin build, wearing a black shirt.
According to the investigating detective, Lt. Dave Coleman, “The field sergeant quickly assembled an entry team, along with deputies armed with less lethal weapons.
“The team staged at the front door of the apartment and announced themselves, but obtained no response.
“As deputies continued attempts to contact the people in the apartment, the apartment door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out.”
On the bleeding man’s heels, “running up over him,” was the way Lt. Coleman put it, Mr. Winkler scrambled to save his life.
But deputies spotted his clothing, which matched what they had been told the suspect was wearing, mistook his haste in getting out of the apartment for a continued attack and also took Mr. Winkler’s stumbles toward them as provocative, attacking both the victim and the deputies.
That led to three deputies firing their guns at the two men, hitting both Mr. Winkler and the other victim, said the report.
Mr. Winkler died later at the hospital; the other victim’s gunshot and knife wounds were non-life threatening.
Lt. Coleman said that it was too early to know who among the three deputies hit Mr. Winkler and who hit the other man, Lt. Coleman said. “We still need the autopsy and other reports to make that determination.”
Mr. Winkler had moved to West Hollywood six months ago to pursue a career in television. He had been recently hire as a production assistant for “Tosh.0”
It was in the immediate aftermath that deputies entered the apartment to find two men fighting, with Alexander McDonald, age 27, getting the upper hand and choking the remaining victim, as well as tearing at his face.
The press release says, “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 second victim (from the doorway) was transported to a local hospital and treated for stab wounds to the neck and a gunshot wound to the leg. He is in stable condition.
The third victim was transported to a local hospital and treated for stab wounds to the legs, arms and chest and was released.
Mr. McDonald was transported to an area hospital where he was treated for minor injuries and released. He is currently in custody.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, has filed the following charges against Suspect McDonald; one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and one count of torture.
His bail has been increased from two million dollars to four million dollars.
The incident, coming so closely on the heels of the murder/suicide in the same building eight days before, has residents rattled and some talking about moving.
The City of West Hollywood has made counselling available to those traumatized by the experience.