LOS ANGELES, Aug. 4, 2015 The attorney representing the family of then 30-year-old TV producer and Puyallup, Washington, native John Winkler today announced that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) has approved a $5 million settlement with Winkler's family after deputies mistakenly shot and killed Winkler outside of his West Hollywood apartment building on April 7, 2014.
The settlement also required that the Sherriff’s department develop and share a comprehensive plan that outlines the training and procedural steps to avoid similar tragedies in the future. Although Winkler’s attorney has requested copies of the plan, the sheriff’s department and their attorneys refuse to comply.
“While we are pleased that the Board of Supervisors has finally approved the settlement that we reached four months ago, I am very concerned about the department’s failure to demonstrate they’ve learned from this tragedy,” said Sim Osborn, the attorney representing Winkler’s family.
According to Osborn, Winkler’s family has requested a copy of the plan on a number of occasions, and representatives of the department have failed to comply.
“To even the most jaded bystander, it is clear that the sheriff’s deputy who mistakenly shot and killed my son was either horribly trained, or simply ignored the established procedures,” Lisa Ostegren, Winkler’s mother said. “I won’t allow them to sweep this under the rug by writing a check; they have to stand and deliver.”
“The only two explanations I can reach is that either the department is ignoring the judge’s order and did not create a corrective plan, or it is so poorly done that they are afraid to share it with the Winkler family,” Osborn said.
Osborn noted that any plan created by the Sheriff’s Department would be considered a public document, subject to public scrutiny.
On April 7, 2014, Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies mistakenly shot and killed Winkler while responding to a stabbing and hostage standoff in West Hollywood. Deputies believed Winkler was the attacker when they encountered him at a Palm Avenue apartment complex, when in fact he was one of three hostages being held inside an apartment by a man with a knife.
“John was trying to help his friend Liam – who had been stabbed in the neck – escape from the apartment when three deputies mistook John for the assailant and shot him four times, killing him,” Osborn said.
Osborn noted that the deputies also shot Liam Mulligan in the leg, causing extensive injuries.
The assailant, Alexander McDonald, was later arrested on charges of murder, attempted murder and torture, and is now being held on $4 million bail.
According to Osborn, the LASD had descriptions of both Winkler and McDonald, including a photograph of alleged assailant given to deputies moments before the shooting.
“How deputies could have confused John for McDonald – two very different looking men – still baffles me and many other observers of the deputies’ conduct,” Osborn said. “These are the sorts of questions that we had hoped would be addressed in the ordered corrective plan.”
The requirement for the corrective action plan was part of the settlement agreement, and ordered by Judge Dolly M. Gee on April 4, 2015.
“It is a tragedy when any parent loses a child, but learning that John was killed by those sworn to protect him is almost too much to comprehend,” said Lisa Ostegren, Winkler’s mother. “There hasn’t been a single day in which John’s death doesn’t bring me to tears, and I can’t image a day in which I will stop grieving over him.”
“In my years of representing families, I can’t think of anyone more universally loved and respected than John,” Osborn said. “He was a young man who found his stride in life, which makes his death even more tragic.”