Tosh.0 production assistant shot, killed by Los Angeles County deputies in mistaken identity hostage mixup

In a fatal case of mistaken identity, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies shot and killed a Tosh.0 production assistant who was trying to help a hostage standoff earlier this week.

John Winkler, 30, had moved to West Hollywood from Washington state within the past year to pursue a show-business career, and had been hired recently as a production assistant for the Comedy Central clip show hosted by Daniel Tosh, according to a report in The Los Angeles TimesOn Monday, Winkler went to a neighbor’s apartment attempting to resolve a hostage crisis peacefully involving his friends, before police arrived.

The sheriff’s office’s initial statement on the shooting said two men had emerged from the apartment aggressively toward authorities. Thursday’s revised statement: “The apartment door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out. 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.” Deputies shot three times and hit Winkler once, fatally, thinking he was the suspect.

They found out soon afterward that the actual suspect, 27-year-old Alexander McDonald, was still inside the apartment fighting with and choking another man.

Another hostage victim mistakenly shot by deputies was treated at a nearby hospital for the gunshot wound to his leg, as well as stab wounds in his neck from the alleged hostage-taker. He was in stable condition Thursday. The other stabbing victim from inside the apartment was treated and released.

McDonald, 27, has been charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and one count of torture. He is being held on $4-million bail.

This same West Hollywood apartment complex was the scene of a separate, unrelated fatal stabbing on March 29.

As to Winkler, no statements had been made from Comedy Central or Tosh yet. But comedian Owen Benjamin told friends yesterday on Facebook of Winkler: “I knew this dude and was really kind and always at stand-up shows.”

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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