LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies mistakenly shot to death a hostage who was fleeing from a knife-wielding attacker at a West Hollywood apartment, authorities announced Thursday.
John Winkler, 30, an aspiring television producer, died at a hospital following Monday night’s confrontation.
Winkler, who had moved to West Hollywood from Puyallup, Wash., six months ago, was “hanging out” with some friends who lived in the apartment below him on Palm Avenue when a man who also lived in that apartment took them hostage at knifepoint, authorities said.
Alexander McDonald took his roommate, Winkler and another man hostage, then flew into a rage and began stabbing and fighting with them, authorities said.
Interim Sheriff John Scott said deputies received a panicky 911 call that someone was threatening residents with a knife and went to the apartment, where they were told the attacker was a thin man in a black shirt.
Deputies announced themselves and pounded on the door, and at that moment one of the stabbing victims took the opportunity to escape, sheriff’s homicide Lt. Coleman said.
“The door suddenly opened and a man with blood spurting form his neck entered the doorway.” Scott said.
Winkler also ran out, behind but nearly on top of the other man, authorities said.
Deputies, noting his thin build and black shirt, mistook Winkler for the suspect and thought he was continuing to attack the other man, Coleman said.
Three deputies fired four shots. Winkler was hit once and mortally wounded. The other man was hit in the leg and hospitalized in stable condition, authorities said.
McDonald, 27, was charged with torture, murder and two counts of attempted murder.