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LA Deputies Admit to Fatally Shooting Innocent Victim

In the wake of the admission, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced murder charges against the suspect

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A man who was mistakenly shot and killed by Los Angeles sheriff's deputies was remembered as a joyful aspiring television producer. He was fatally shot by deputies responding to reports of assault with a deadly weapon because officials believed he was the suspect, not a victim. Jane Yamamoto reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. Thursday, April 10, 2014.

    The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department admitted Thursday to fatally shooting an innocent victim of a knife attack whom they mistook for a suspect.

    In the wake of the admission, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced murder charges against the suspect. No charges have been announced against the deputies.

    At a press conference Thursday evening, a sheriff's department spokesman said an internal investigation has been launched into the shooting.

    LASD Expresses Sympathy Over Innocent Man Shot Dead

    [LA] LASD Expresses Sympathy Over Innocent Man Shot Dead
    Three LA sheriff's deputies are currently off duty after a hostage situation in West Hollywood turned chaotic, leaving an innocent man dead. Beverly White has the latest details on the tragic situation from the scene of Thursday afternoon's news conference in Monterey Park for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on April 10, 2014.

    Deputies on Monday were responding to a call of an assault with a deadly weapon and man with a knife in an apartment in the 900 block of Palm Avenue when two men came running toward them, according to a press release by the sheriff's department.

    LASD Admits to Killing Innocent Man

    [LA] LASD Admits to Killing Innocent Man
    The LA Sheriff's Department admitted on Thursday that a West Hollywood man shot by deputies was a victim, not a suspect in the bloody hostage situation that unfolded Monday night. Mekahlo Medina reports from West Hollywood for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 10, 2014.

    The deputies mistakenly thought one of the men was the victim and the other the suspect, officials said. They opened fire, shooting and killing John Winkler, 30.

    "Believing Winkler was the assailant and the assault was ongoing and he would attack the entry team; three deputies fired their duty weapons at him," the department's release said. "Victim Winkler was struck by the gunfire and fell to the floor."

    The other victim, already covered in blood, was struck in the leg by the gunfire and collapsed.

    Deputies later realized that Winkler, who was wearing a black shirt and fit the assailant's description, was a victim.

    After shooting Winkler, the deputies found the real suspect, Alexander McDonald, 27, allegedly choking someone inside the apartment, with a knife on the floor nearby, officials said.

    Investigators on Thursday said McDonald, shown at right, allegedly held Winkler and two other men hostage inside the apartment at knifepoint, stabbing them and fighting with them as the deputies arrived.

    The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office on Thursday charged McDonald in connection with murder, attempted murder and torture after deputies admitted to fatally shooting Winkler.

    McDonald pleaded not guilty and was being held in lieu of more than $4 million bail.

    Family members told NBC4 Southern California that Winkler moved to Los Angeles six months ago in hopes of becoming a television producer. He recently did production work for Comedy Central's "Tosh.0."

    “Comedy Central and ‘Tosh.0’ extend their deepest condolences to the family of John Winkler," Comedy Central said in a statement. "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.”

    Winkler later died at a hospital. One victim was treated at the hospital for stab wounds and released. Another was treated for stab wounds and a gunshot wound, and was in stable condition as of Thursday afternoon.

    Neighbors told NBC4 they're living in so much fear since the incident, they want to move.

    "For me, honestly, I'm going to move out of the building," neighbor Peter Duckler said. "I feel police acted a little too quick and it just makes me nervous. I'm very nervous to even stay here. So we are actually packing up and we are leaving."

    "They like to shot first and ask questions later," neighbor Monica Lewis said. "If there was no sign of a weapon or anything there was no reason to shoot them. The poor victims are dead and somebody lost their loved ones."

    NBC4's Mekahlo Medina contributed to this report.