The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department acknowledged Thursday that its deputies mistakenly shot and killed an aspiring TV producer earlier this week while responding to a stabbing and hostage standoff in West Hollywood.
Sheriff’s officials said deputies believed John Winkler, 30, was the attacker when they encountered him at a Palm Avenue apartment complex Monday night.
In fact, he was one of three hostages being held inside an apartment by a man with a knife. Winkler was shot in the chest when he rushed out of the apartment with one of the other victims, sheriff's officials said in a statement.
“The apartment door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out,” the statement said. “He was covered in blood and bleeding profusely from the neck. Simultaneously, Winkler ran out of the door, lunging at the back of the fleeing victim. Both ran directly at the deputies.”
Three deputies fired at Winkler. He was shot once and died at a local hospital. The other victim was also shot in the leg, officials said.
Interim Sheriff John Scott on Thursday called the shooting “very tragic.” Winkler’s black shirt matched the description of the assailant, so when he bolted out of the apartment, deputies suspected Winkler was the suspect, he said.
“It was a very quick exit from the residence,” Scott said. “The appearance was he was assaulting the individual in the front.”
Winkler’s friend and roommate, Devin Richardson, said Winkler was friends with two of the people being held hostage and had rushed over to the apartment when he heard them screaming.
"It's just a really sad story," Richardson said. "He basically went to help some neighbors and ends up getting shot."
Winkler had moved to West Hollywood from Washington state six months ago to pursue a career in entertainment and had recently been hired for several days as a production assistant for the comedy show "Tosh.0."