Alexander Tor McDonald Pleads Guilty to Attempted Murder in 939 Palm Incident

Liam Mulligan being removed after shooting at 939 N. Palm Ave. (Photo by Jon Viscott)

Alexander Tor McDonald this morning pled guilty to a two charges of attempted murder and great bodily injury in the incident at 939 Palm Ave. in 2014 that led to the shooting death of one young man and the serious injury to another by Sheriff’s deputies.

McDonald had been charged with murder, attempted murder and torture.

A spokesman for the L.A. County District Attorney said McDonald could be sentenced to up to 14 years and four months in prison. Sentencing is set for Oct. 6.

Alexander Tor McDonald

McDonald was arrested after deputies from the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station arrived at his Palm Avenue apartment building around 9 p.m. on April 7, 2014. The deputies had been alerted by neighbors to McDonald’s erratic behavior earlier that night. It was later learned that he was inside the apartment trying to attack his roommate and two visiting friends with a knife

While the deputies stood in the hall outside the apartment, the door swung open and Liam Mulligan, McDonald’s roommate, ran out the door bleeding from the neck. Deputies fired at him, seriously wounding his leg. Behind him ran John Winkler, a visitor to the apartment, who deputies shot and killed. They then entered the apartment and found McDonald inside, assaulting Chris Moretti, a friend of Mulligans.

The L.A. County District Attorney investigated the incident and decided there wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge the Sheriff’s deputies in the shootings, citing California law.

“California law permits the use of deadly force in self-defense or in the defense of others if it reasonably appears to the person claiming the right of self-defense or the defense of others that he actually and reasonably believed that he or others were in imminent danger of great bodily injury or death,” said the report from the D.A. Integrity Division.

John Winkler

McDonald was charged with murder with the apparent rationale that Winkler would not have been killed by Sheriff’s deputies if McDonald’s illegal actions hadn’t prompted them to arrive on the scene.

While the deputies did not face criminal charge, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, facing lawsuits from John Winkler’s family and from Liam Mulligan, voted to settle, awarding $5 million to Winkler’s family and $2.5 million to Mulligan. The D.A.’s investigators reported that a woman who had dated McDonald and lived on the same hall said she showed the deputies photos of both McDonald and Mulligan so they could distinguish the two. The three deputies, however, said they had not seen such photos.

The deputies involved in the incident were Michael Fairbanks, Byron Holloway and Gerardo Valdivia, who continues to work at the WeHo Sheriff’s Station. Station Capt. Sergio Aloma confirmed recently that an investigation by the Sheriff’s Department of the incident recommended that disciplinary action be taken. However Aloma was unable to cite what sort of disciplinary action and who might be disciplined because of California laws barring release to the public of information about police misconduct.

John Winkler, who was 30 years old when he was killed, had recently had moved to WeHo from Seattle to work as a production assistant on “Tosh.O,” a television show. McDonald, who was 27 years old at the time, McDonald, 27, had moved to Los Angeles the year before from Washington State. He was working as design director for a new mobile app called Pogoseat. McDonald was said by his friends to never before have exhibited such erratic behavior. A friend of McDonald’s told WEHOville that McDonald’s friends believed that cocaine with bath salts had been used by McDonald that day but couldn’t offer proof of that.

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6 years ago

Steve, my guess is that they contract with the LASD because it is easier than dealing with the LAPD, and far easier and more practical than creating their own police department. I think the problem is that our local West Hollywood government seems to let them do their thing, with little oversight or governance. The public asks for answers, goes to the City Council, and we often don’t get those questions answered.

Steve Billings
Steve Billings
6 years ago

Why does West Hollywood use the LA County Sheriff Department? They are the worst example of policing in the USA. Just look at former Sheriff Baca.Is there a pay for play relationship with WEHO politicians?

Woody McBreairty
Woody McBreairty
6 years ago

Didn’t this sheriff know that there was one suspect & that he was shooting at TWO different people? He killed one & crippled the other & the suspect survived. That doesn’t make sense to reasonable minds. Didn’t he realize the risk & danger of firing a gun inside an apartment complex where there were a lot of people around? Lucky he didn’t shoot through a window & kill someone in their own home. Hard to say if this was abject incompetence or if this man just wanted to shoot. It’s sad that those who commit these kinds of travesties against… Read more »

6 years ago

As much as many demand the disciplinary action to be taken by the LASD toward the deputies it is a private matter closed to the public.

6 years ago

This is so scarey. I know that some young officers come directly from a war situation, without veterans on the police force helping to give the wisdom of how to react in this situation. I do hope they get to the bottom of this with the Sherrif’s department.

Todd Bianco
6 years ago

The plea closes this disturbing case but it also means that the evidence that would have been presented at trial will remain in some file at the DA’s office and not made public. I can’t wait for the Sheriffs to come up with a disciplinary action for the deputy who killed Winkler. I won’t hold my breath.

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