July 12, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Family of West Hollywood Shooting Victim Sues for $25 Million

West Hollywood
The family of the fatal victim in the April 7 West Hollywood shooting has filed a $25 million suit against Los Angeles County. (Thinkstock)

The family of an aspiring television producer who was mistakenly shot and killed by deputies sent to a West Hollywood apartment building to investigate an assault report filed a $25 million claim on April 29 against Los Angeles County.

County officials had no immediate response to the claim, which is the precursor to a lawsuit. The family said it plans to file the lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court, alleging the Sheriff’s deputies, among other causes, violated John Winkler’s civil rights in shooting and killing him.

The claim alleges that Winkler was one of three hostages held captive by Alexander McDonald inside an apartment. While Winkler helped a severely injured friend who had been stabbed by the assailant, Sheriff’s deputies mistakenly shot Winkler as he exited the apartment, killing him, according to the claim.

“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.”

The claim asks for $25 million in damages for Winkler’s death.

“Words simply cannot convey how devastated we are over John’s death,” said Lisa Ostergren, Winkler’s mother. “He was the sort of bright spirit that touched everyone he met, and the senselessness of his death makes it even more tragic.”

The 30-year-old Winkler had recently completed his education at the Seattle Film Institute. He had moved to Los Angeles six months earlier from Washington State and had recently been hired as a production assistant on the Comedy Central series Tosh.0, his family said.

“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.”

Said Osborn: “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. 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.”

According to Osborn, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept. (LASD) had a description of McDonald and even a photo of him.

“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,” Osborn said.

The LASD is conducting an investigation of the April 7 West Hollywood shooting, Osborn said.

According to Osborn, Winkler was visiting a friend’s apartment in the 900 block of Palm Avenue in West Hollywood with three other friends when McDonald, a resident of that apartment, suddenly began stabbing one of the men.

Alerted by other residents of McDonald’s unusual behavior, Sheriff’s deputies came to the scene, and when Winkler and one of the other men attempted to escape the apartment, sheriff’s deputies shot them both, killing Winkler and injuring the other man.

McDonald, 27, was apprehended in the West Hollywood apartment. He has been charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and one count of torture, and is being held on $4 million bail, officials said.

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