Osborn Machler announces their representation of the family of John Winkler – a Puyallup-born aspiring TV producer allegedly shot and killed by Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies in a case of mistaken identity – who has filed a claim (case number 14-1113935*001) against the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD), a necessary prelude to a lawsuit.
The claim asserts LASD deputies shot and killed Winkler while responding to a stabbing and hostage situation in West Hollywood, Calif., on April 7, 2014.
The claim further alleges Winkler, 30, was one of three hostages held captive by an armed man inside an apartment. While Winkler helped a severely injured friend who had been stabbed by the assailant, sheriff’s deputies mistakenly shot Winkler as he exited the apartment, killing him.
“I don’t think there is any burden greater for a parent to bear than burying their child, and John’s parents also have to endure the knowledge that his death was eminently avoidable had the sheriff’s deputies exercised any degree of prudency before opening fire,” said Sim Osborn, attorney representing John Winkler’s family. “We hope that the legal filing will help us understand how the deputies could have shot two innocent young men, mistaking them both for the assailant, tragic decisions leading to tragic outcomes.”
The state of California requires that prior to filing a lawsuit, a plaintiff must first submit a claim, which includes a damage amount. If the municipality does not settle the case and it goes to trial, a jury would determine the amount of any monetary award. The claim asks for $25 million in damages for Winkler’s death.
Osborn plans to file the case in Federal Court, alleging the sheriff’s deputies, among other causes, violated Winkler’s civil rights in shooting and killing him.
“Words simply cannot convey how devastated we are over John’s death,” said Lisa Ostergren, John’s mother. “He was the sort of bright spirit that touched everyone he met, and the senselessness of his death makes it even more tragic.”
Winkler had recently moved to Los Angeles to pursue a film and television career after completing his education at the Seattle Film Institute. He had recently begun work as a production assistant on the popular MTV show Tosh.0.
“We spent a lot of time discussing whether we should file this action, but at the end of the day, my family is owed truth and accountability,” Ostergren said. “I am filing this not as John’s mother, but as every mother, hoping to protect them from enduring what we are going through.”
“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,” Osborn added. “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 Osborn, Winkler was visiting a friend’s apartment with three other friends when Alexander McDonald, a resident of that apartment, suddenly began stabbing one of the men. Alerted by other residents of McDonald’s unusual behavior, LASD were on scene, and when Winkler and one of the other men attempted to escape the apartment, sheriff’s deputies shot them both, killing Winkler and injuring the other man.
McDonald was apprehended in the apartment and is currently in jail.
According to Osborn, the LASD had a description of McDonald, and even a photo of him. “We have many questions for the LASD, including how they could have confused McDonald for John – two very different looking men – when witnesses had given them a photo just moments earlier.”
The LASD is currently conducting an investigation of the incident.
About Osborn Machler
The attorneys at Osborn Machler represent plaintiffs in wrongful death, personal injury, products liability, and professional malpractice cases. Osborn Machler is noted for taking difficult cases and successfully taking them to settlement or trial. www.osbornmachler.com.
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Mark Firmani, 206-466-2700