Second 939 Palm Victim Seeks Damages in Deputy Shooting

The young man who survived a shooting by West Hollywood Sheriffs deputies at 939 Palm Ave. in April has filed a claim for $25 million in damages from Los Angeles County.

Liam mulligan, 939 palm ave.
Liam Mulligan

In the claim, lawyers for Liam Mulligan, 28, cited the damage the gunshot caused to his right leg, leaving him with a permanent limp and unable to participate in sports he enjoyed. It also said he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, in part because he saw officers shoot and kill his friend, John Winkler, during the incident.

Mulligan’s claim, filed by Engstrom, Lipscomb and Lack, his Los Angeles law firm, offers the first detailed description of that bizarre evening on April 7 on the second floor of the Palm Villa apartments. Mulligan, a native of Australia who works for 20th Century Fox, had just returned from a trip to New York City and was watching television with friends Chris Moretti and John Winkler. His roommate, Sarah DeLuca, was in her bedroom.

While Mulligan, Moretti and Winkler were relaxing, Alex McDonald, 27, a friend who was design director for a new mobile app called Pogoseat, entered the apartment carrying a backpack.

McDonald became hostile and began acting strangely, Mulligan said in the claim document. Suddenly McDonald pulled a knife from his backpack and stabbed Moretti in the leg. Mulligan’s roommate, Sarah, came out of her bedroom to see what was going on. Mulligan sent her back in to protect herself. With the door locked, she dialed 911 for help and learned that her neighbors, alarmed by McDonald’s behavior toward them earlier, already had called the police.

Michael Fairbanks, Gerardo Valdivia and Byron Holloway, deputies from the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, responded to the 911 calls. According to Mulligan’s claim they entered the building with a description of McDonald and what he was wearing. Kat Navis, another 939 resident, showed them a mobile phone photo of McDonald as well.

The deputies approached Mulligan’s apartment with guns loaded and drawn, Mulligan said. Inside, McDonald was holding the three men captive. Mulligan attempted to rescue Moretti from McDonald and was stabbed in the neck. He then ran out the front door of the apartment, his neck bleeding, followed by John Winkler. Winkler, 30, had recently moved to Los Angeles from the Seattle area and landed a job on Comedy Central’s “Tosh.o” show.

“Immediately upon exiting the apartment while trying to stem the tide of his profusely bleeding neck, Mr. Mulligan, a step or two out the door, was immediately shot, without warning, by the LASD,” says Mulligan’s claim. “The Sheriffs’ bullet tore through the inside of Mr. Mulligan’s right leg shattering his right femur, dropping Mr. Mulligan to the ground. While lying helplessly on the ground, trying to stop the bleeding from his neck and now leg, Mr. Mulligan heard further gunfire and watched his equally innocent friend, John Winkler, gunned down by the LASD.”

Winkler died and Mulligan was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center where he underwent surgery on his right leg. He was discharged ten days later and continues to undergo medical treatment, including physical therapy and psychological counseling.

“The LASD clearly committed an assault and battery when it shot and seriously injured him,” the claim says. “The l.ASD further breached their duty of care to Mr. Mulligan to carry out their law enforcement duties in a reasonable manner, including the use of any firearms or any force whatsoever. ”

The claim noted that the 30th semiannual Report of Special Counsel presented to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in September 2011 focused on so-called “state of mind” or “perception” shootings in which deputies perceive that an individual poses a threat. That report said that in 2010 “state of mind” and “perception” shootings had risen by 50 percent over the prior six years, with 61 percent of “state-of mind” shooting victims eventually determined to not have posed a threat to law enforcement officers.

Lisa Ostergren, the mother of John Winkler, also has filed a claim against the county for $25 million. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will decide whether or not to grant the claims. If either is denied, Ostergren or Mulligan could file a civil lawsuit.

Various Los Angeles County agencies are investigating the shooting. The deputies involved underwent counseling and training and now are back on duty. McDonald is in jail awaiting trial on charges including one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of torture.

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Larry Block
6 years ago

Palm Ave has become synonymous with these shootings. I tried to ask for new guidelines for the way police enter our residential buildings. Woody’s and all of your points are dead on. I’m haunted by the images of Jon’s death. I’m double haunted by the loss of Clinton Bounds after begging for those temporary street signs that say slow down. City hall did nothing. I’m also emboldened by these 2 tragic losses that we need changes to protect our growing city so it keeps it’s small town personality and values while we welcome new residents, new drivers and new buildings.… Read more »

Woody McBreairty
6 years ago

In October, 2010 West Hollywood Sheriffs were called regarding a liquor store robbery in progress on Santa Monica Blvd. A deputy arrived & promptly fired his gun at the store clerk who had been held up, as the clerk tried to point out the direction in which the suspects had fled. Thankfully all 6 shots fired by the deputy missed the clerk, but he did manage to shoot out the windows of the store next door. According the news reports that I saved on my computer, the deputy said the store clerk “fit the general description” of the suspect or… Read more »

Todd Bianco
6 years ago

The “general description” excuse is used often. Just a couple days ago, a man was arrested in Beverly Hills and held for several hours without charges or being permitted to make a phone call because he fit the “general description” of a bank robbery suspect: tall, black and bald. Or how about the LAPD officers who fired over 100 bullets at a blue Toyota pickup truck with two women in it delivering newspapers because they thought it might be the dark grey Nissan pickup driven by Christopher Dorner. You know, it was early in the morning so hard to tell… Read more »

Brian Hamilton (@iBrianHamilton)

The inescapable truth is: the deputies opened fire on two unarmed men, without warning, riddling them with bullets. How is that consistent with proper police procedure? When I hear cop-coverup phrases like “the suspects LUNGED at the officers…” Lunged? They were running for their lives– and they shot them. FAIL.

Hans Hannson
Hans Hannson
6 years ago

Unarmed white man killed by police. Where is the outrage?

JESS
JESS
6 years ago

Why does the City of West Hollywood not have better control over the LASD? Let’s talk TASERS as first level of control over altercations instead of GUNS and BULLETS! Better vetting of officers to serve in the City. Lives were lost. Lives were changed forever. $50million will be cheap for the LASD to pay off these lawsuits. If they go to Civil suits the amounts will be much higher. Enough already with “Police Brutality” to shoot first and ask questions later. THAT mentality MUST STOP. Taser’s. Rubber bullets. Lower caliber bullets that are not designed to KILL!!!! Law enforcement across… Read more »

Woody McBreairty
6 years ago

Although this will always be a West Hollywood horror story, the Sheriff’s Dept wins if they are not required to publicly disclose the details of this killing & explain under what authority & by what training does a deputy answer a disturbance call, enter an apartment building & his first gesture of understanding & controlling the situation is to shoot to kill & maim the first people he sees. If he shot to kill based on a “general description” or on a small picture of the suspect, does that mean that all of our lives are subject to being suddenly… Read more »

jimmypalmieri
6 years ago

No one wins in this story. It is a tragedy that will haunt lives forever.

Todd Bianco
6 years ago

This whole account is disturbing. First, we still don’t know the names of the deputies who discharged their weapons or how many bullets each fired. The LASD finally released the names of the three deputies who were at the door, but not the details of the shootings. Second, the deputies had a description and even photo of the suspect, Alex McDonald, yet neither of the two men shot were the suspect. Several shots were fired, and it appears that the intent may have been lethal. Unfortunately one young man lost his life and the other will bear physical and emotional… Read more »

Woody McBreairty
6 years ago

This is a tragedy beyond description. The public is entitled to assume that sheriff’s deputies are well trained to take control of perceived threatening situations & definitely not to shoot to kill as a first course of action. What about “stop or I’ll shoot”, “get on the ground”, “put your hands up”, “drop the weapon” (the shooting victim had none) or whatever else trained professional law enforcement agents should be able to do to get such a situation under control without causing needless deaths of innocent people. Anyone could shoot & ask questions later. The sheriff is supposed to do… Read more »