The young man who survived a shooting by West Hollywood Sheriffs deputies at 939 Palm Ave. in April has filed a claim for $25 million in damages from Los Angeles County.
In the claim, lawyers for Liam Mulligan, 28, cited the damage the gunshot caused to his right leg, leaving him with a permanent limp and unable to participate in sports he enjoyed. It also said he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, in part because he saw officers shoot and kill his friend, John Winkler, during the incident.
Mulligan’s claim, filed by Engstrom, Lipscomb and Lack, his Los Angeles law firm, offers the first detailed description of that bizarre evening on April 7 on the second floor of the Palm Villa apartments. Mulligan, a native of Australia who works for 20th Century Fox, had just returned from a trip to New York City and was watching television with friends Chris Moretti and John Winkler. His roommate, Sarah DeLuca, was in her bedroom.
While Mulligan, Moretti and Winkler were relaxing, Alex McDonald, 27, a friend who was design director for a new mobile app called Pogoseat, entered the apartment carrying a backpack.
McDonald became hostile and began acting strangely, Mulligan said in the claim document. Suddenly McDonald pulled a knife from his backpack and stabbed Moretti in the leg. Mulligan’s roommate, Sarah, came out of her bedroom to see what was going on. Mulligan sent her back in to protect herself. With the door locked, she dialed 911 for help and learned that her neighbors, alarmed by McDonald’s behavior toward them earlier, already had called the police.
Michael Fairbanks, Gerardo Valdivia and Byron Holloway, deputies from the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, responded to the 911 calls. According to Mulligan’s claim they entered the building with a description of McDonald and what he was wearing. Kat Navis, another 939 resident, showed them a mobile phone photo of McDonald as well.
The deputies approached Mulligan’s apartment with guns loaded and drawn, Mulligan said. Inside, McDonald was holding the three men captive. Mulligan attempted to rescue Moretti from McDonald and was stabbed in the neck. He then ran out the front door of the apartment, his neck bleeding, followed by John Winkler. Winkler, 30, had recently moved to Los Angeles from the Seattle area and landed a job on Comedy Central’s “Tosh.o” show.
“Immediately upon exiting the apartment while trying to stem the tide of his profusely bleeding neck, Mr. Mulligan, a step or two out the door, was immediately shot, without warning, by the LASD,” says Mulligan’s claim. “The Sheriffs’ bullet tore through the inside of Mr. Mulligan’s right leg shattering his right femur, dropping Mr. Mulligan to the ground. While lying helplessly on the ground, trying to stop the bleeding from his neck and now leg, Mr. Mulligan heard further gunfire and watched his equally innocent friend, John Winkler, gunned down by the LASD.”
Winkler died and Mulligan was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where he underwent surgery on his right leg. He was discharged ten days later and continues to undergo medical treatment, including physical therapy and psychological counseling.
“The LASD clearly committed an assault and battery when it shot and seriously injured him,” the claim says. “The l.ASD further breached their duty of care to Mr. Mulligan to carry out their law enforcement duties in a reasonable manner, including the use of any firearms or any force whatsoever. ”
The claim noted that the 30th semiannual Report of Special Counsel presented to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in September 2011 focused on so-called “state of mind” or “perception” shootings in which deputies perceive that an individual poses a threat. That report said that in 2010 “state of mind” and “perception” shootings had risen by 50 percent over the prior six years, with 61 percent of “state-of mind” shooting victims eventually determined to not have posed a threat to law enforcement officers.
Lisa Ostergren, the mother of John Winkler, also has filed a claim against the county for $25 million. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will decide whether or not to grant the claims. If either is denied, Ostergren or Mulligan could file a civil lawsuit.
Various Los Angeles County agencies are investigating the shooting. The deputies involved underwent counseling and training and now are back on duty. McDonald is in jail awaiting trial on charges including one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of torture.