LA Sheriff’s Dept. Mistakenly Shoots, Kills Aspiring TV Producer

LA Police Mistakenly Shoots, Kills TV

An aspiring TV producer was mistakenly killed by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. officers on Monday night in West Hollywood.

Deputies mistook John Winkler for a stabbing suspect at a Palm Avenue apartment complex.

Winkler, who had reportedly left his apartment to help neighbors taken hostage by an unidentified man, was shot and killed. Three deputies fired at Winkler when he rushed out of the apartment with one of two other victims, sheriff’s officials said in a statement. He was shot once and died.

“The apartment door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out,” the statement 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. Both ran directly at the deputies.”

The 30-year-old was just hired by Comedy Central as a production assistant on “Tosh.0.” Winkler moved to L.A. six months ago from Washington to pursue a career in entertainment.

Update: Comedy Central has released a statement regarding Winkler’s death.

“Comedy Central and ‘Tosh.0’ extend their deepest condolences to the family of John Winkler. We only had the privilege of working with him for a short while and extend heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends during this tragic time.”

“Tosh.0” star Daniel Tosh tweeted his condolences.

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  1. Kent Straith says:

    I think it’s fair to mention that Daniel Tosh’s tweet is, word for word, the same as Comedy Central’s statement. If his Twitter feed is under that strict a control, what’s even the point?

  2. West Hollywood is forever left to bear the blemish of this needless tragedy. I don’t understand the kind of training these sheriffs had (or lack thereof) to shoot and kill a man as a first course of action because he was wearing a black shirt! Even if he was carrying a knife, he was no match for 4 sheriff’s deputies with guns. Whatever happened to “drop the weapon”, “put your hands in the air”, “get on the ground” or any such other commands called out to a suspect under such conditions? Incompetent law enforcement officers should be eliminated before they do more harm to society. Those who can be rehabilitated should be retrained with the understanding that they can keep their heads on under stress & make competent judgment calls in emergencies. I mourn the loss of this young man as if I knew him. He probably had 50 more years of life to live, maybe more. What a needlessly sad ending to the life of a young man who dreamed of making movies. “Good night sweet prince…”

  3. Nanny Mo says:

    His family needs to start a major law suit. It is not acceptable that the LAPD shoot first and ask questions later (which they do way too often.) I know being a policeman in stupid LA is really hard, but still this type of “to protect and serve”, happens way too often here and in the end no one is protected nor served by this type of action. LAPD are way to trigger happy, and we all know it.

  4. Lukask says:

    So sad to hear about hat happened, McDonald friends are defending him like crazy.

  5. b8375629 says:

    Trigger happy LA pigs at it again. Let’s hope they’re some blue boy prosecutions.

  6. says:

    VARIETY….please do a follow up story on John Winkler, the man. Tell your readers what a kind, sincere, and truly friendly guy he was. Talk about his smile, and his talent for making people laugh. He was handsome enough to be in front of the camera, but he wanted to be a film maker. I knew John only for a short time. Last week he was telling me how excited he was to get the PA job on Tosh.0. He was one of the nicest guys I’ve met in LA — and his dedication to working in film impressed me — so much so that I introduced him to one of my friends, who is a successful production member. They hit it off and intended to work together. My other friend is now in Vegas shooting a movie for 11 weeks. John’s life was cut short — way too short. Please pay him a little respect and give him more than just a headline about his death. Talk about his life. Please do that. Thank you. — his neighbor & friend

  7. kenmandu says:

    This is a real LA Story and too often repeated

  8. Rocco Guarino says:

    Death and killing should have nothing to do with a person’s job title. It’s pathetic that Variety feels the need to play this card. The Facebook post that took me here reads “TV Producer”, yet the headline on the actual page reads “Aspiring TV Producer”, then the article finally reveals that he was a PA. So they trump up his title for page views. Shame on you, Variety.

    • Frank Martin says:

      YOU ARE JUST A LITTLE BIT TO ANAL MY FRIEND……So they got the context a little wrong……BUT…….your focus was “what the hell does that have to do with the story?” Dude you need to seek professional help…………PLEASE………before we read about you on the news….

  9. Frederika says:

    These comments are sort of harsh. Consider the context… lapd has had a very rough couple of weeks. –Two veteran police officers have died and they have had a few other near death incidences. Stress levels are at an all time high and that can definitely cause bad decisions.

    • Cinda says:

      I understand where you’re coming from okay, , they’re under a lot of stress, but that’s all the more reason to NOT SHOOT TO KILL UNTIL THEY ARE ABSOLUTELY SURE. They could have very easily shot the “perpetrator” or the “victim” in the leg to disable him, and sort it all out later. Don’t they practice on the shooting range? This is insane!

  10. Cinda says:

    What a shame! A promising talented young man shot down in the prime of his life. Now, maybe something will be done about these gun-happy/pistol toting/shoot-first-ask questions later cops since it’s a young White boy who’s been shot. I knew it would be a matter of time before this happened. No one spoke out against these policemen when our young black men and women were being shot in cold blood. Now hopefully, some action will be taken to put an end to these senseless killings/shootings of innocent people, and make these cops accountable for their actions!!!.

  11. mattdaemond says:

    Maybe since this is so close to home, Daniel Tosh will shed some light on how poorly the average police officer is trained.

    These individuals take taxpayer money and simultaneously raise tax payer mortality due to terrible decisions like this.

    Police officers in general are poorly trained, overly equipped/armed, and are given elevated status over a citizen in the eyes of the law.

    I’m sure the precinct will issue some bullshit about how it was completely justifiable and whoever pulled the trigger will just be suspended with pay only to be back on the street within a month.

    It is disgusting that there is no accountability here and that there isn’t power for the public to make reforms.

  12. Hayden says:

    “Mistakenly” the police department is filled with all these idiots who shot first ask questions later, and no punishment is ever dealt, generally cops are disgusting people, who abuse their power.

  13. art gomez says:

    must be old SANTA ROSA,,COPS

    • Ron Cloward says:

      Agreed. They did the same thing with Brian Mulligan. Someone reported that a middle-aged white man was trying to break into cars, and they happened upon media exec Brian Mulligan, bashed his face in and shattered his nose (7 surgeries required), then when they realized who it was, they tried to frame him, told the press he had illegal drugs in his car, and that he was acting like a deranged animal on bath salts, so they had to torture him. Turns out breathalizer + blood test results showed he was 100% clean, not a trace of anything in his blood, and they knew it. When he sued, they all lied for each other on the stand. Who’s next? When will this end? Gutted over what happened to Daniel Tosh. Sickening. Prayers for the family who will never make peace with something that was so senseless. Outraged.

  14. Sheryl Meyer says:

    how and why are these police officers going to begin working again in a week when they murdered a man? How? They were scared and were to trigger happy. Fire them immediately! Do you want police helping your community like this? What if it was your son who was innocent and by the way there was no gun involved. These deputies need to be relieved of their “duties”. Now!!!! Murder an innocent man.

  15. CI Anderson says:

    You believe this fictional account of what happen??

  16. LiberalIdiot says:

    An “aspiring” TV Producer – because thge dude was Jewish? Huh? Sounds like ithe scene was a clusterfawk at best and accidents happen where the police have to make an instant decision – who else but police own the burden of this responsibility? If I find myself doing something profoundly stoopid and get myself shot by accident, tell them I’m an apriring Democrat Senator from California. There’s your lawsuit, idiots.

  17. Lets say for a second that the victim stabbed the criminal and was chasing them out of the apartment. This means these trigger happy idiots would have shot them too. Its the training and loss of civilian rights that continues. No weapon and only false reports at the end of the day. There are good officers and its these idiots who make the job so hard to do. They need a nationwide retrain and also tie the loss of pensions & benefits in these wrongful execution situations. This was an execution and everyone has the right to due process – not to be processed for the casket.

  18. Smooth says:

    Oh please, use another forum for that political nonsense.

  19. Jack Seal says:

    Its about time we hold police officers accountable for there actions. This city should not be a shoot first
    and think about it later, the public wouldn’t convict me, the union backs me as well as every politician, lets see what we they do on this one.

  20. daniel pena says:

    You know what I don’t understand? There have been literally hundreds of articles about bullies in school. Does anyone doubt that these aggressive fellows and gals now serve as “peace officers”?

    They used to know where their bread was buttered, but now, like many plaintiffs’ attorneys, they’ve turned into independent crooks.

  21. MerryMarjie says:

    This is just heartbreaking, that an innocent man was shot and killed by law enforcement. But you also have to put yourself in the officer’s position. One man running out of the building covered in blood, the next one seemingly unhurt but also running, not shouting “Help! Help!” or giving any indication he was not involved, and you as an officer have one second to make a decision. Clearly, a bad decision with terrible consequences that will be remembered for life in this case, but when you, as a manager or businesswoman, gas station attendant or CPA, make an incorrect decision, you usually have much more time, and the outcome is rarely life-threatening. I wouldn’t be a policeman for any amount of money, but I’m glad there are some people who are willing to serve in that capacity.

    • someone somewhere says:

      This is what happens when scared little men are given guns and sent out to protect the public.

    • GKN says:

      Was the producer armed? I think not. Did the cop have to shoot to kill? Don’t they train these guys? I understand a moment’s panic, but in doubt, I would expect the officer to shoot him in the leg or in some less fatal way. Daniel pena’s right. It is a job that bullies love. I’ve seen it many times. They need to be weened out. And preferably, not hired in the first place. Can’t be that hard to spot them. Indeed, school records and a chat with school principals, etc. would be one place to start.

      • MerryMarjie says:

        Of course, you’re right, and I, for one, am so anti-gun that some of my relatives won’t talk to me. I can’t understand why police aren’t armed with non-lethal weapons that incapacitate immediately because I am sure they have been invented. It makes no sense to me that police must shoot to kill, but that truly is their directive, and they insist they must adhere to that standard for safety reasons, but I am not in charge of municipal/county law enforcement agencies. We should make this a priority, to stop the senseless “accidental” killing of innocent people, but then, we have many priorities in this country and that, apparently, is not on the agenda.

      • That is true,but the Police could have controlled themselves for a few seconds,just to be sure,God! This kind of thing happens too much!

  22. Glennc says:

    They don’t feel like real men unless they kill something! Humans or animals! They get bored and then there is a chance to actually use the guns! Wow!

    • Michael Anthony says:

      I’m not justifying the police in this case, but police in general. These incidents happen in seconds, not minutes. Given the scum on the street who kill for thrill, for your car, for a dollar, do you think you could do better?

      Tell me, what would you do in a situation where you have to make a decision in seconds? Keep your gun holstered and say “let’s talk this out”? You make thus big “tough” statement, without giving an alternative. Typical of someone who has no clue about what kind of scum haunts the streets if LA at night. I feel awful for this innocent man. But if you want to fix the problem, its not all the cops fault. Its the entire justice system in California.

  23. he should have minded his own business and stayed out of the criminal enterprise says:

    he should

  24. Meredith Basinger says:

    I’m so sorry for Jon Winkler and his family. Tragic and yes stupid of the sheriff’s to shoot when no weapons were seen and does anyone know if they let the victims know they were present before they just started shooting? They should be trained to evaluate a situation before firing…this falls on the dept. who trained these men. I’m hearing more and more incidents of shooting before identifying or warning…I believe some officers are trigger happy, without thinking the situation through. What’s going on with the police&sheriff’s departments and training of new recruits these days? They’re also in trouble for hiring guys with criminal records! Crazy! I’ve heard that more seasoned policemen&sheriffs have been retiring early due to the new guy recruits who lack integrity and act on impulse too much..with disregard for their training. I’m not sure what percentage have retired early, but, it’s interesting. I hope our departments can take a hard look @their recruits and make sure they follow procedure properly. More lives might be saved. I know they have a hard job to do..I get it&respect it!. But what’s the point of it all if they’re accidentally killing innocents?

  25. Dick Delson says:

    This will cost LAPD a lot of money

    • Ishmael says:

      No it won’t! It will cost the tax payer a lot of money. Ultimately WE pay for all their errors. And we pay for their salary while they are suspended. There is almost an incentive for these thugs to kill because they get a really long, nice paid holiday, We all know that rarely are these cops ever found to be in the wrong because it is the police policing the police. And when all is said and done WE have paid for this young mans murder. This has to stop. Hopefully people won’t just be writing on a comment page until the next episode of the Kardashiites lulls them into a comfortable bubble of indifference and erases their sense of outrage.

  26. kenmandu says:

    The Police here tend to be badly trained and trigger happy–not a good combination,

  27. LAPD is the Biggest Gang in LA says:

    Come on, Variety. First you say it’s LAPD when it was actually LA County Sherrif’s. And now the LA Times is saying it was a day-player PA, not a producer. Not that his title matters in the wake of his death, but these are a lot of basic facts to screw up.

  28. LAPD is the Biggest Gang in LA says:

    Nothing will change. The LAPD will put the officers on paid leave for 6 months while an “investigation” happens. Then a press release will say the officers were in the right and they will move on. Remember the two LAPD who fired over 100 shots without warning into the back of blue pick-up truck driven by two Latina women when their suspect, Chris Dorner, was a black man in a grey pick-up? THEY GOT DESK DUTY!

  29. Ex=Pat Film Producer says:

    Shoot in Canada. You won’t get shot.

  30. Spike says:

    Open Letter to the attorney who takes the lawsuit of the family vs. City of West Hollywood:

    Bankrupt them! They need to pay through the nose, they need to fire the deputy who shot him, and fire the other two for missing, and fire the training officer who trained them.

    • MichaelZ says:

      Your comment would be witty if it wasn’t so ignorant. Bankrupting “them” means bankrupting US because we pay through the teeth for their negligence and incompetence. Our taxes are wasted on these and other lawsuits. And our infrastructure is destroyed because the idiots running the city can’t pay judgments and keep things running. Ugh!

  31. Spike says:

    Three deputies fired at him and only one deputy hit him. Hey, boys! Time for some target practice, you inept bozos.

  32. sr says:

    Lawsuit…a big lawsuit coming. How stupid can these cops be? Did anyone leaving the apartment wield a weapon in the direction of these trigger-happy cops? I didn’t think so.

    • Metskar says:

      A law suit against the police is the most ridiculous waste of time and tax payer dollars! Look at the Kelly Thomas trial. Acquitted of murder. Couldn’t even get use of excessive force- even with a video of the cops beating him to death. Cops are immune to justice.

    • KC says:

      The whole sad story in 2 words: TRIGGER HAPPY.

  33. Spike says:

    Hey! Can’t you get this straight?! There’s a difference between LAPD and West Hollywood Sheriff’s Deputies. The deputies shot him, not the LAPD. I don’t know who’s more brain-challenged. Them, or the reporter. If Winkler had no weapon on him, the dumb bunnies could have yelled to freeze and get down on the ground and he would have complied. But Winkler should have looked outside before rushing outside. A cascading circus of stupidity.

  34. Glenn C. says:

    Maybe they didn’t like his show!

    • Keating says:

      Hey Spike,
      You seem to be pretty expert at judging stupidity. Where did you learn so much about it? I can’t believe that you could come out with such outrageous comments when a man has been shot dead my mistake and you want those that missed him sanctioned. You are really something but I should probably just ignore you. JK

    • Patrice says:


  35. Joshua f says:

    This is absolutely tragic. My deepest sympathies go out to Mr. Winkler’s family and friends.

  36. Elson T. says:

    The LA County Sheriff’s Department (whose jurisdiction is any city within the county without their own police force) is not the same agency as the Los Angeles Police Department (whose jurisdiction is the city of Los Angeles proper). Even their uniforms are different. Please correct the headline.

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