SEATTLE—The family of a Washington man mistakenly shot and killed by Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies is heartbroken and demanding answers.
John Winkler was killed Monday by deputies who fired off several shots during a standoff with a knife-wielding man at a West Hollywood apartment. They thought he was attacking a group of people; in reality, Winkler was trying to get away.
The family of John Winkler released a statement on Friday.
“We seek to understand the reasons why the sheriff’s deputies shot and killed John. We know that shooting and killing an innocent man must be a horrible burden for those deputies, and they are in our prayers as well, as they attempt to cope with the circumstances of his death,” said the family.
Those at the Seattle Film Institute, a film school Winkler attended, are just as stunned as his family. Breaking into the television industry was John Winkler’s dream. Like many, it’s the reason he moved to Los Angeles.
“I remember John as an exuberant personality and one of the students that you remember,” said Steve Bradford, a former instructor.
With all the students who come through the Seattle Film Institute, Bradford says Winkler was one of those students you don’t forget. Winkler spent a year at the institute back in 2009. Bradford says he was a comedy writer who produced short films.
“It is difficult for me to process because simultaneously finding out that in the same week he had gotten this big break on Tosh.O that he was killed,” said Bradford.
Winkler was killed by sheriff’s deputies after a bizarre incident in West Hollywood involving Alexander McDonald, who also happens to be from Washington. Pictures posted on Instagram show the two men knew each other. The two of them are pictured together after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl.
Investigators say McDonald attacked several people with a knife, and when deputies arrived they mistook Winkler for McDonald, shooting and killing him.
The sheriff’s office admitted it was a tragic mistake. Winkler’s family has now hired a high profile Seattle attorney.
“It just didn’t seem possible how this could happen,” said Bradford.
For those who knew Winkler, like his former instructor, he will be remembered as that guy who could always make them laugh.
“When you see pictures of him he’s almost always got a big grin and I think that’s what people are really going to miss,” said Bradford.
As for Alexander McDonald, his family lives in Shoreline. He remains in custody for the attack and faces charges in connection to Winkler’s death along with two counts of attempted murder. His bond is set at over $4 million.
Full statement by John Winkler’s family:
“John was a kind, funny, smart young man, with a bright wit and kind word for anyone he met. We are grasping to understand why he was taken away from us in such a tragic way.
"Those who were blessed with the opportunity to know John knew him to be an incredibly giving young man, always ready to do anything for friends and family. It is no surprise to us that he put his own life at risk to help a friend. This is exactly the quality that made him a very special soul.
"We want to thank those around us for the outpouring of love and support shared with our family at this very trying time.
"Moving forward, we seek to understand the reasons why the sheriff's deputies shot and killed John. We know that shooting and killing an innocent man must be a horrible burden for those deputies, and they are in our prayers as well, as they attempt to cope with the circumstances of his death.
"We ask that the media respect our privacy as we attempt to deal with John's death."