LA deputies shot at fleeing hostages, mistakenly assuming that the two hostages who were fleeing from an apartment complex in West Hollywood on Monday were the suspects. One hostage was killed. Both were fleeing from their captor, who held police on a standoff earlier this week.
The Los Angeles Times today identified the dead hostage as 30-year-old TV production assistant John Winkler, who was shot in the chest as he ran at a police barricade set up inside of the Palm Avenue apartment building where Winkler and two other men were being held.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's department issued the following statement: “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.”
The Sheriff’s Department said Winkler fit the “general description” of the suspect – described as a white man in a black shirt – and that when he ran from building, officers had only seconds to make a determination as to who he was.
The suspect, identified as 27-year-old Alexander McDonald, was reportedly wielding a butcher knife. The Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies responded to a call about a man who was threatening three other individuals with a 10-inch knife. Police later said that McDonald had taken Winkler, who was his roommate, and two others hostage inside of the apartment building where Winkler lived.
Sheriff’s homicide Lt. David Coleman said the attacker was “in an incoherent state of mind, seemed very paranoid.” Coleman said McDonald was in a rage and started to stab at and slash his victims. Police said that after they moved in, they found McDonald inside of the apartment choking and assaulting a third victim.
Three deputies discharged their weapons, firing four shots into Winkler’s chest, fatally wounding him. The second hostage, who was also running at police, was shot in the leg and is recovering at a local hospital. Winkler later died at the hospital.
According to NBC Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced murder charges will be brought against McDonald. The deputies involved in the shooting are not expected to be charged, though an internal investigation is pending.
Individuals who lived at the apartment building in the 900 block of Palm Avenue were critical of the police. One neighbor said he and his family are moving out as a result of the shooting.
“For me, honestly, I'm going to move out of the building,” neighbor Peter Duckler said. “I feel police acted a little too quick and it just makes me nervous. I'm very nervous to even stay here. So we are actually packing up and we are leaving.”
Neighbor Monica Lewis agreed and said: “They like to shot first and ask questions later. If there was no sign of a weapon or anything there was no reason to shoot them. The poor victims are dead and somebody lost their loved ones.”