A man who stabbed two men — one of whom was mistakenly shot and killed by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies while he was trying to escape the attack at 939 Palm Avenue in West Hollywood — was sentenced Friday to 14 years and four months in state prison.
Alexander Tor McDonald, 31, pleaded no contest Oct. 2 in a Los Angeles courtroom to two counts of attempted murder and admitted an allegation that he inflicted great bodily injury, according to Deputy District Attorney Keri Modder.
McDonald was initially charged with murder involving the April 7, 2014, shooting death of John Winkler, who was attacked by McDonald and then killed by deputies who said they mistook him for the suspect as he followed another bleeding victim out of the apartment unit.
The murder count, along with a torture charge, were dismissed as a result of McDonald’s plea.
Sheriff’s deputies had been responding to a report of an assault with a deadly weapon and were looking for a thin, white male wearing a black shirt, Lt. David Coleman of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said shortly after the shooting.
“The door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out,” Coleman said then. “He was covered in blood and bleeding profusely from the neck. Simultaneously, victim Winkler ran out the door, lunging at the back of the fleeing victim. Both ran directly at the deputies.”
“Winkler was similar to the description of the suspect and was wearing a black shirt,” Coleman said then. “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.”
Winkler was shot in the chest and killed. McDonald’s roommate, Liam Mulligan, who had been stabbed by McDonald, was shot in a leg.
Deputies then found McDonald struggling with another man on the living room floor of the apartment and discovered a large knife that had been used in the stabbing, authorities said.
What Coleman didn’t note was that two neighbors of McDonald said they had showed the Sheriff’s deputies mobile phone photos of McDonald and of Mulligan, who look very different. One of those neighbors, who had dated McDonald, later told an investigator for the L.A. County District Attorney that one of the deputies pointed to her photo of McDonald and declared “that’s our guy.” The deputies denied seeing the photos when questioned by the investigators.
The District Attorney declined to prosecute the deputies involved in the incident — Michael Fairbanks, Gerardo Valdivia and Byron Holloway. The District Attorney’s investigation determined that it was the gunshot from Valdivia, who is still working at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, that killed Winkler.
However, in August 2015, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $5 million settlement with the family of Winkler, who was a 30-year-old production assistant for Comedy Central’s “Tosh.O” who had recently moved from Seattle to Los Angeles. The Board of Supervisors agreed in May 2016 to pay $2.5 million to Mulligan.