John Winkler, a production assistant on Comedy Central TV show "Tosh.0," was accidentally shot dead Monday night by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in a case of mistaken identity.
The sheriff’s department acknowledged the error on Thursday, saying its deputies shot and killed Winkler, 30, in West Hollywood, mistaking him for a stabbing suspect.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Winkler went to a neighbor’s apartment, where a man was holding two victims hostage. But authorities confused Winkler for the stabbing suspect as Winkler rushed out of the apartment with a victim. Three officers fired a total of three times at Winkler, who was hit once and killed, and they shot one of the hostages as well.
“The apartment door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out,” the police said in a statement. “He was covered in blood and bleeding profusely from the neck. Simultaneously, victim Winkler ran out of the door, lunging at the back of the fleeing victim. Both ran directly at the deputies.”
A friend of Winkler’s told the LA Times the production assistant was a friend of the two victims held hostage and rushed to the apartment after hearing their screams to help.
“It's just a really sad story,” Devin Richardson, Winkler's friend, said. “He basically went to help some neighbors and ends up getting shot.”
Winkler’s friend said Winkler had moved to West Hollywood from Washington state six months ago to pursue his dream job as a producer and was recently hired as a PA on "Tosh.0."
The scene began Monday evening when the sheriff’s office received a call about a stabbing suspect in the apartment. Witnesses said there were two men inside and the assailant was a “thin man wearing a black shirt.”
According to the report, the officers believed that “Winkler was the assailant and the assault was ongoing and he would attack the entry team” since he was “lunging at the back of the fleeing victim,” who ran out the door first.
After shooting Winkler, authorities burst inside the apartment and found the real stabbing suspect, Alexander McDonald, who was choking a third victim and “tearing at his face.” McDonald, 27, then “began stabbing the men and fighting with them.”
McDonald 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.
Winkler is dead while the second victim shot by deputies is in stable condition in a hospital, suffering stab wounds to the neck and a gunshot wound to the leg. The third victim has been released from the hospital with stab wounds in the leg, arms and chest.
Police said one of the victims and McDonald were roommates.
Initial reports from the day after the shooting, the LA Times reported, did not mention the case of mistaken identity with Winkler, but rather said the two people who were shot had “aggressed the deputies.”