By Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California
John Winkler’s family yesterday announced that they would file a $25 million claim for the wrongful death of the WeHo resident who recently left the Puget Sound area to begin his life in Tinsel Town only to find it cut short by sheriff’s deputies’ bullets.
He was an innocent victim in a horrible tragedy, all now agree. The claim, which could become a lawsuit, is designed, said family attorney Sim Osborn, to get at the truth of the matter.
In a press conference featuring large photos of John Winkler, his mother Lisa Ostergren told journalists, “Our family wants to find out the truth of what happened that night and want those officers to be held accountable for what they’ve done.
“It never should have happened … words really can’t express how devastated we really are.”
Her sentiments are felt by many in West Hollywood. People earnestly want to know more about the unusual occurrence in this town of a deputy involved fatal shooting. The last one took place in 2009.
The 30 year old aspired to enter the television business and had moved to WeHo about six months earlier, scoring a job in March at Tosh.0, a cable television series.
On April 7, Mr. Winkler was visiting a friend at 939 N Palm Ave in West Hollywood along with his roommate.
The trio watched TV and relaxed together.
The other roommate of the apartment they were in, Alexander McDonald, returned to the apartment via the balcony and held the three friends hostage with a knife he had taken from the women down the hall.
He took their cell phones and began to attack them, stabbing at them. When deputies arrived on the scene, they announced their presence and the first victim Liam Mulligan, roommate of Mr. McDonald, came stumbling out the door bleeding profusely from the neck.
On his heels came Mr. Winkler, who sheriff detectives say was wearing the same color shirt as Mr. McDonald and seemed to be continuing a life-threatening attack on Mr. Mulligan. Three deputies fired four shots, with three hitting Mr. Winkler and one hitting Mr. Mulligan, said Det. Lt. Dave Coleman, lead investigator on the case.
Still, the Winkler clan feels that the deputies should have shown more restraint because, they claim, the team was shown the photo of Mr. Alexander before going into the building, and Ms. Ostergren says, “They look nothing alike.”
According to the attorney, Mr. Osborn, “Unfortunately, victims like John and his family have little leverage or power to seek truth or to demand accountability through means other than legal action.
“Lisa and her family deserve to know how and why the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department failed so horribly that it cost John his life.”
According to the city’s television station, “His family in the South Sound shared their anger with KIRO 7 shortly after his death.
“By God, the boy gets gunned down, OK? And it was no fault of his own other than he was trying to help someone,” said the victims’ uncle, Lee Winkler.
“The victim’s mother wept as she spoke about her son Tuesday, saying that she tries to be strong but cries at night, can’t sleep and has nightmares about what happened to her son.”
Mr. McDonald awaits a trial on a $4 million dollar bond. He stands charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and one count of torture.