The family of John Winkler, who was shot and killed by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy on April 7 as he fled at attacker at 939 Palm Ave., has announced that it is filing a $25 million claim against the department.
The announcement was made at a news conference today in Seattle. Winkler, 30, had recently moved from there to West Hollywood and taken a job as a production assistant at Comedy Central’s “Tosh.O.”
“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.”
Sheriff’s deputies were called to the apartment building when a resident reported strange behavior by Alexander McDonald, a resident. When they opened the apartment door, Liam Mulligan, who had been knifed, rushed out, followed by Winkler. The deputies, having been told that there were only two men in the apartment, believed that Winkler was the assailant and shot and killed him. Mulligan was wounded in the leg by a gunshot.
Inside, the deputies discovered McDonald choking and tearing at the face of another young man and a knife on the floor nearby. McDonald, 27, has been arrested on charges of murder, attempted murder and torture and is being held on $4 million bail at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles.
The four men, who were friends, were visiting one another when McDonald allegedly attempted to take them hostage and began stabbing them.
Winkler’s mother, Lisa Ostergren, was at the news conference . “Words simply cannot convey how devastated we are over John’s death,” she said. “He was the sort of bright spirit that touched everyone he met, and the senselessness of his death makes it even more tragic.”
“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.”
The LA Sheriff’s Department (LASD) has said deputies believed Winkler was the assailant because he was thin and
wearing a black shirt, which is how McDonald had been described. But Sim Osborne, the lawyer filing the claim, questioned the “mistaken identity” explanation. “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,” he said.
“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,” Osborn said. “Lisa and her family deserve to know how and why the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department failed so horribly that it cost John his life.”
Under state law, a plaintiff must first submit a claim, which includes a damage amount. If Los Angeles County does not settle the case and it goes to trial, a jury would determine the amount of any monetary award. The incident is still being investigated by the Sheriff’s Department and the deputies are now back at work.
The shooting sparked a rally by local residents outside the apartment building on April 13 at which they mourned Winkler’s death and that of Kurtland Ma, a young man apparently killed by his boyfriend, in a separate incident at the same building. The residents then marched to the West Hollywood station of the Sheriff’s Department to protest its handling of the incident.
Friends of Winkler are staging an event at the Hollywood Improv at 10 p.m. on Thursday as a memorial to him and his passion for comedy. The event is called “Laughing for Winkler.” Tickets are available online, with proceeds donated to the Boys and Girls Club of America.
hope the family gets every nickel they desire.
When the sheriff’s department spokesman used a typical police cover-up word, saying Mr. Winkler “lunged” at them, I thought something was wrong. Clearly the man was running for his life, and a deputy with an itchy trigger finger shot him. A witness said they put three more bullets in Winkler after he was already down. Something went terribly wrong here.
This is a tragedy and although easy to jump to conclusions, it’s not the first time the LA Sheriff’s Dept has acted recklessly and mistaken a victim for the perpetrator. I can think of a case back in October 2010 when Sheriff’s responded to a late night call about an armed robbery in a convenience store on SMB near Havenhurst and subsequently discharged 8 rounds at the victim and shot out 2 store windows during the exchange. Clearly the Sheriff’s are too hasty to react and our community has been traumatized by the actions of local law enforcement. I would… Read more »
Of course the sheriff’s department would prefer not to shoot the innocent. That is not the question here. And comparing to what I would have done is a false analogy. I am not a highly trained peace officer with a gun. Officers need to know how to deal with these types of situations and the reasoning that “It’s tough, some people might get caught up in it,” is completely unacceptable. We are supposed to be training these officers to deal with very difficult situations without killing the innocent. And this wasn’t even someone reportedly with a bomb or a gun.… Read more »
stop construction of the robo parking structure toy behind city hall and give that money to his loved ones
They should sue the city of West Hollywood for hiring these thugs against the wishes of West Hollywood residents.
They STILL won’t answer the demand to have our own WEHO Police Dept.
The enemy are these awful drugs.
The level of new sheriffs rotating into West Hollywood seem to be anything but helpful. The approach has changed from a helpful stance to deep suspicion. These folks have got real chips on their shoulders.
Perhaps our community needs to really have a say who works in our city with a gun. Assuming we have a thoughtful, involved, educated town of residents and business owners let’s demand a say in the interview process and not be content to accept from a deplorable sheriffs department hierarchy their rotation of personnel into here blindly.
I agree with Woody. A case of mistaken Identity???? That’s what they call it! I pity the LA Sheriffs department for their compulsive cowardly actions. I pray for the mother and family. I saw her interview on TV. This is happening all over and it is getting worse. Are they trained to kill?. Perfect example: the woman in the mini van with her kids and the deputy using excessive force and shooting at the van with kids in it. .
It is easy to criticize law enforcement actions from the sidelines. But they only have a split second to make a decision to fire their weapons. If they were told there were only two men in the apartment and the assailant was wearing a black shirt, then the decision to fire probably was justified. It is easy to second guess. To question. To label the officers terrorists.
Just remember that law enforcement officers are out there to protect us. They went through extensive training. They are not the enemy. They have a very difficult job.
It is easy to criticize law endorcement actions. But when there is but a split second to make a decision to fire or not, given the information they know at the time, it is easy to make a mistake. If the information above is correct, that the officers were told there were only two men inside the apartment and that the assailant was wearing a black shirt, then whatever investigation is going on will find that this is a justified shooting. It is a shame that another innocent has died at the hands of law enforcement. But remember, those men… Read more »
Another typical LAPD/LASD terrorist action. It will never stop. If the Christopher Dorner incident, injustice for a justice force insider, did nothing to change anything, this won’t either. The person(s?) firing need to be fired and also sued.