Comedy Central TV host Daniel Tosh took to Twitter to remember John Winkler, the aspiring TV producer mistakenly killed by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies this week.
Winkler worked as a temporary production assistant on Tosh’s show, “Tosh.0"
“Only had the privilege of working with John Winkler for a short while. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends,” Tosh wrote.
Winkler, 30, who had recently arrived from Washington state to pursue a career in entertainment, was hit once in the chest when three deputies opened fire on him Monday night at a West Hollywood apartment complex, officials said in a statement. Deputies mistook him for an assailant who was holding people hostage at knifepoint in an apartment.
Friend Devin Richardson said Winkler wanted to become a producer or director.
“He chased dreams,” Richardson said. “He was very smart, a well-liked guy.”
Winkler’s aunt said he was thrilled about being in Hollywood.
“He was quite excited the last time we talked to him,” said Anne-Marie Van Wart, 62, by phone from Tacoma, Wash. “He was just getting his foot in the door of life. Just, the light was right around the corner … and [now] he’s gone.”
He died at a local hospital. A second hostage was also mistakenly shot in the leg, officials said.
“Taking the life of an innocent person is a police officer’s greatest nightmare,” Interim Sheriff John Scott said Thursday afternoon at a news conference addressing the shooting.
Later, Scott added that the three deputies had “the best of intent” in trying to protect a stabbing victim from a man they believed was the assailant.
According to a sheriff’s department statement describing the incident, “The apartment door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out. 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.”
Winkler fit the general description of the suspect, and when he bolted out of the apartment deputies believed he was the assailant and opened fire, officials said.
The first man who ran out the door, who has not been identified, was hit in the leg.
Richardson said Winkler, who lived in the complex, was a friend of the two other men held hostage and rushed to the apartment when he heard them screaming.
But sheriff’s officials said they believed Winkler was already in the apartment visiting friends when the disturbance began.
The incident unfolded about 9:30 p.m. Monday in the apartment complex in the 900 block of Palm Avenue off Santa Monica Boulevard.
Sheriff’s deputies said they got a call about an assailant with a knife in a unit of one of the complex’s buildings. When they got to the complex, a witness told them there were two men in the apartment and that the assailant was a thin white man wearing a black shirt, according to the statement.
Deputies “announced themselves” at the apartment but got no response. The door suddenly burst open and the bloodied man came out with Winkler close behind, officials said.
The deputies believed “Winkler was the assailant and the assault was ongoing and he would attack the entry team,” officials said.
After the deputies fired on Winkler and the other man they heard “sounds of a fight coming from inside the apartment,” according to the statement.
They entered the apartment and saw another male victim as well as the suspected hostage taker, identified as Alexander McDonald.
McDonald was choking the victim and “tearing at his face,” officials said.
The deputies subdued McDonald and arrested him.