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LA deputies shoot hostages: Fatal police mistake takes innocent man's life

L.A. Deputies shoot hostages fleeing from man on a stabbing rampage.
L.A. Deputies shoot hostages fleeing from man on a stabbing rampage.
Wikimedia Commons / James

A law enforcement officer’s worse nightmare materialized when a hostage was mistaken for the attacker and shot and killed. A 911 call beckoned police to a West Hollywood apartment with a report that a man with a knife was holding three people hostage and stabbing them. When police arrived they banged on the door and two men ran out, but both were hostages trying to get away, according to MSN News on April 11.

Three men were being held hostage, but when police demanded the suspect open the door, two of the hostages took this opportunity to get away. The two men ran out the door, one after the other. Police mistook the second hostage as the suspect and they believed he was after the man who ran out ahead of him.

Police opened fire hitting John Winkler, 30, four times, with one of the bullets being fatal. The first man was shot in the leg by a bullet that also met to stop Winkler, who police thought was the perpetrator. The police described the scene in a statement they released:

"The apartment door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out," the department said. "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."

After shooting Winkler, the police heard what sounded like a fight coming from the apartment. This is where they found the real suspect on top of the third hostage, stabbing him and tearing at the man’s face. The suspect, Alexander McDonald, was taken into custody and all three men were taken by ambulance to the hospital, but Winkler died shortly after arriving.

It was first reported that Winkler happened to be at his neighbor’s apartment just hanging out with friends, when McDonald came in. The Los Angeles Times reports today that Winkler, who lives in the same apartment complex, heard screams coming from his friend’s apartment and rushed over to see what was wrong. McDonald was a roommate of the friend Winkler was visiting.

McDonald, 27, who was in some type of crazed state of mind, came in through the balcony and lunged at them with a knife. McDonald was arrested and charged with torture, murder and attempted murder. He was also brought to the hospital for treatment, but released.

Winkler had just landed a three-day job, as he was breaking into the entertainment business. He was filling in as a production assistant on “Tosh O,” which is a show from the Comedy Central channel. Winkler had moved from Washington State to West Hollywood just six months ago to try breaking into the entertainment business. His friend was heartbroken at how Winkler was realizing his dream after going to college for this line of work. Being a producer was his future goal.

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