West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico and City Councilmembers John Duran and Jeffrey Prang came to the defense of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station tonight in the face of criticism over its alleged lack of transparency about the fatal shooting of a young man at 939 Palm Ave.
Cole Holbrook, a West Hollywood resident, asked the Council why it hasn’t asked for a grand jury investigation of the shooting death of John Winkler and the wounding of Liam Mulligan. Winkler and Mulligan were trying to escape a knife attack at the Palm Avenue apartment building when deputies mistakenly shot and killed Winkler and wounded Mulligan.
Holbrook noted that while the Council frequently adopts resolutions involving issues in cities and countries thousands of miles away, it had not made an official expression of concern about the Palm shootings, which occurred on April 7.
City Hall, however, did issue a press release about the shooting several days after it occurred. “The City of West Hollywood is deeply saddened by this tragic shooting and extends its sympathies to friends and family of Mr. Winkler,” the statement said.
Larry Block, a candidate in the 2015 City Council race, also criticized the Council for not responding to the Palm shootings or another shooting at the House of Blues on May 24. “There has been no transparency,” Block said. “We have had three people shot by our deputies in the last three months… We can’t sweep this under the rug.”
Block noted that the state Supreme Court on Thursday, ruling in a lawsuit involving the Long Beach Police Department, said law enforcement agencies cannot refuse to disclose the identity of an officer involved in an on-duty shooting unless there is strong evidence that such disclosure might put the officer at risk. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department refuses to release such information. However the City of Los Angeles Police Department routinely releases that information when requested.
The Sheriff’s Department has said a deputy shot a man at the House of Blues because he refused to stop ramming his car into that of another person. To date the department has not identified the man who was shot or whether he has been charged with a crime. WEHOville has been unable to get that information from the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station because those answering the phone demand a “booking number” before releasing it.
Block asked that the Council declare April 7 as “community outreach day” in honor of Winkler and use the day to promote communication by the Sheriff’s station with local residents.
Mayor John D’Amico asked Capt. Gary Honings, who heads the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, to respond to the criticism at the Council meeting tonight.
“It’s a tragic situation what happened on Palm,” Honings said. “We regret it… There’s nothing we can do to rewind that incident…”
Honings said deputies involved in the shooting, who the Sheriff’s department has not identified, were put on paid leave and returned to work after undergoing psychological testing and training.
Honings said several agencies would be involved in investigating the shooting, which could take as much as a year. “We don’t investigate ourselves,” he said. “I urge everybody… to let the investigation take its course.”
“As horrible as this was for the victim’s family, I know the deputies have to be traumatized,” he said.
Councilmember Prang said that he understood the complexity of the situation the deputies at 939 Palm may have found themselves in, having participating in similar simulated situation. Councilmember Duran said that he and D’Amico talked privately with Honings several days after the Palm shooting but couldn’t publicly share details of the conversation. “We stand firmly with you and the Sheriff’s department,” Duran said.
Winkler’s family has asked Los Angeles County for compensation of $25 million for his death. The Winkler family can only file a lawsuit if the request is declined.