The family of an aspiring TV producer, who was taken hostage at an apartment at 939 Palm Ave. in West Hollywood and then killed by sheriff’s deputies who mistakenly thought he was a suspect, have settled a federal lawsuit alleging they were negligent and used excessive force, City News Service confirmed today.
John Winkler, 30, was shot and killed one year ago today — April 7, 2014 — by deputies responding to a report of a man with a knife at an apartment complex.
Sim Osborn, attorney for the family, said the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department agreed to the settlement on March 30, but the Board of Supervisors must still sign off on the deal. Osborn declined to disclose the monetary value of the settlement pending review by the board. In April last year Winkler’s lawyer filed a claim against the Sheriff’s Department for $25 million in damages.
“We are gratified that we could reach this settlement on the first anniversary of John’s death, and hope that this agreement will allow his family some measure of closure,” Osborn said.
The lawsuit alleged that before the shooting, a woman in the apartment complex showed deputies photos of Alexander McDonald — the actual suspect — and Winkler, identifying McDonald as the assailant. One deputy showed the photo of McDonald to other deputies, saying “Alex is our guy,” according to the suit.
Authorities later said Winkler was actually being held hostage by the suspect, who was also shot but survived. McDonald is awaiting trial on murder and other charges.
The lawsuit, filed in December, sought unspecified damages, naming Los Angeles County, the sheriff’s department and three deputies: Michael Fairbank, Byron Holloway and Gerardo Valdivia.
A minute order issued today by U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee indicates that “the case has settled in its entirety.” The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the settlement at a future meeting.
Still pending is another claim for $25 million in damages filed against the Sheriff’s Department by Liam Mulligan, who also was shot by West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station deputies as he ran out of the apartment with Winkler. Mulligan was bleeding from a stab wound to his neck as he ran outside, where deputies shot him in the leg.