WeHo Residents Rally at 939 Palm to Mourn Two Deaths and Protest Police Conduct

Mourners at 939 Palm Ave. (Photo by Jon Viscott)
Mourners at 939 Palm Ave. (Photo by Jon Viscott)

About 50 people turned out tonight for a rally at 939 Palm Ave. to mourn the deaths of two young men at that apartment building and to demand that the City of West Hollywood hold the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department accountable for one of those deaths.

Dr. Kurtland Ma, 34, was found stabbed to death in his apartment at 939 Palm on March 29. His boyfriend, Andre Davids, has been charged with his murder and is being held in prison in lieu of $1 million bail. On April 7, John Winkler, 30, was shot to death by a sheriff’s deputy responding to a call about an altercation in the same building. Winkler was shot as he was fleeing an apartment whose tenant, Alexander McDonald, is alleged to have held him and two other men hostage and attacked them with a knife. Another man fleeing with Wilkins was shot but was not killed. McDonald has been arrested on charges of murder, torture and attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is being held in prison in lieu of $4.1 million bail.

Candlelight vigil at 939 Palm Ave. (Photo by Jon Viscott)
Candlelight vigil at 939 Palm Ave. (Photo by Jon Viscott)

The deaths of both young men have provoked an outpouring of sympathy from those who knew them and from other residents of West Hollywood upset by the killings. Such deaths are unusual in West Hollywood, where the Sheriff’s Department reported no murders in 2013. The shooting death of Winkler also has provoked outrage among residents who believe the three sheriff’s deputies who responded to the incident overreacted by quickly using deadly force.

“You do not shoot unarmed people,” said one speaker at the candlelight gathering, an opinion echoed by several others. The group marched from 939 Palm south to Santa Monica Boulevard to stand in front of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Departments’s West Hollywood Station, where several speakers called for the City Council to investigate the shooting incident.

Lt. David Coleman of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau said last week that deputies responding to a call from another resident of the building were told that there were only two men living in the apartment where the altercation was taking place and that the suspect was a white man with a thin build wearing a black shirt.

Deputies stood at the front door of the apartment and tried to contact those inside when “the door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out,” Coleman said. “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. 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. Victim Winkler was struck by the gunfire and fell to the floor, and the male victim also collapsed, struck once by the gunfire.”

The rally was organized by Eric Schmidt and Larry Block, owner of the Block Party clothing store, who has complained that one of his employees, Matt Royalwood, who lives in the 939 Palm building, was accosted and handcuffed by sheriff’s deputies when he stepped out of his apartment during the April 7 incident to see what was going on. Royalwood elaborated on his complaints in an interview earlier in the day with KTLA, Channel 5.

“I think we need to have a little closure in this community and put these guys to rest,” Block said. “This is a tragedy not only for the people in this building but for everyone in this neighborhood.”

  1. Why were McDonald and the two other men fighting?

    Was McDonald on drugs? Was he a violent kind of guy?

    How did all these guys know McDonald … or did they?

    The Deputies announced themselves when they got to the apartment’s front door. Did Winkler and the other guy that was shot hear the Deputies announce themselves?

    Why did Winkler lunge at the back of the other guy that got shot, if they were running towards Deputies?

    If the police told the two guys running to stop or get on the ground, did they hear the command and just ignore it?

    Why haven’t the other two victims been named?

  2. The community will not or cannot put this tragedy to rest until they are advised by the Sheriff’s Dept and responsible members of the city government on what remedial actions have been taken to assure that this kind of needless shooting of an innocent citizen never occurs in West Hollywood again. The killing of this young man must not be called an accident that we hope will never happen again, but a careless act of incompetence which will never happen again. This deputy obviously needs either serious retraining or to find himself a job that that might require less good judgment under stress and that does not require him to make judgment calls in life or death situations.

  3. Thank you to those that took the time and effort to attend and produce this event.
    Thank you to WEHO ville for the way in which you have handled the reporting of this tragedy and not jumping to conclusions and over glorify the facts in your articles. Some things can be left unsaid.
    Shame on other area media for publishing facts on rumors and hearsay to get a headline.

    The call for the city council to investigate this incident is not enough. In my opinion they are corrupt and incompetent of the follow through and honesty required here. It is the council that sets the contract and policy for the sheriffs dept.

    It is time for outside forces to investigate this incident and council as a whole. Even the sheriffs dept itself it more capable. We need better than armchair town leaders to run the community.

    In addition we should understand why in less than one month two different attackers went wild. These were not common attacks . Is this some new result of a new drug legal or otherwise or effect of those already rampant in our community ? Was it a crime of passion?
    Was the one attack a meeting of strangers gone very wrong very fast ?

    That said I am a person of compassion and understanding for all and support the Sheriffs dept and the families of this horrible event. This is something that will weigh heavy on their hearts for ever and I do not believe the sheriff set out to do this when they go to work on a daily basis. So again my heart goes out to all.

    For the record I too was once put in handcuffs and placed in the backseat of a sheriffs car because I matched “the description” It happened while looking into a DUI hit and run outside my building. I was 100% sober and did not even approach the suspect car and officer standing by it almost an hour after the original event. ( I had been out to dinner with a neighbor and was surprised they were still here upon our return from dinner. ) After looking into my eyes with a flashlight realizing I had not been drinking and then releasing me he said “go over to my partner” ( officer in training ) Where the officer in training put me in cuffs took my wallet and ID and put me in the backseat of the car.
    All in view of the lead officer. The lead officer was training the rookie and then blamed the action on the rookie in training which I then protested.

    I have never been arrested in my life and I am almost 50.

    I do not mean to discuss my own experience and or in anyway minimize last weeks events by doing so.
    It is just show that my feelings and thoughts come from personal experience. Including my belief of the nature of our council.

  4. It was a very nice turnout. It helped the community heal a little bit. but the real closure has not happen yet. Next we will demand that changes be made in the Sheriff’s Department and that those three cops not be allowed to work in Weho.

    Just for the record, I helped Larry Block put the vigil together by giving him the idea and by placing over 150 fliers in Weho from Robertson to Fairfax and talking about it to people along the way most of the day Sunday.

    I received a note from Kurtland Ma’s brother thanking me for organizing the vigil.

    “My name is Wayland, and I am the brother of Kurtland Ma. I wanted to reach out and let you know we appreciate your gesture to honor my brother and John Winkler. I hope it was a healing event for all involved
    Thank you very much for your kindness”

    Eric Schmidt.

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