Sheriff’s Department Won’t Disclose Action Taken in Winkler Shooting

"Corrective action" redacted from plan by L.A. County Sheriff's Department
“Corrective action” redacted from plan by L.A. County Sheriff’s Department

The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department will not disclose what it has done to comply with a court order that it take steps to ensure that an incident like the killing of a young man by Sheriff’s deputies and the injury of another at 939 Palm Ave. in April 2014 does not recur.

U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee in April 2015 ordered the Sheriff’s Department to produce a “corrective action plan” as part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought against the department by Lisa Ostegren and Mark Winkler. Ostegren and Winkler are the parents of John Winkler, then 30, who was shot dead by deputies as he tried to escape a knife attack in an apartment at 939 Palm. A friend, Liam Mulligan, was shot in the leg by deputies as he also fled the apartment.

John Winkler
John Winkler

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors has paid out $7.5 million to settle lawsuits involving the shootings. It made a payment of $5 million to Winkler’s parents and paid $2.5 million to Mulligan.

The three officers involved in the shooting, Gerardo Baldivia, Michael Fairbanks and Bryon Holloway, did not face criminal charges. Those deputies were standing outside the door of the apartment where Alexander McDonald, one of the tenants, allegedly was stabbing Mulligan. McDonald has been charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of torture in the incident. They told investigators that they thought only two men were in the apartment. When the door suddenly swung open, Mulligan rushed out, bleeding from the neck, followed by Winkler, who the deputies said they shot because they thought he was the attacker. The deputies contradicted a statement by two women who lived down the hall from the apartment who said they had shown deputies a picture of McDonald to help them identify the assailant. The deputies said they hadn’t seen such a photo.

Liam mulligan, 939 palm ave.
Liam Mulligan

In deciding not to prosecute the deputies, the district attorney cited California law, which “permits the use of deadly force in self-defense or in the defense of others if it reasonably appears to the person claiming the right of self-defense or the defense of others that he actually and reasonably believed that he or others were in imminent danger of great bodily injury or death.”

The “imminent danger” defense has become controversial in this video age with the taping of numerous officer-involved shootings across the United States where the officer was not prosecuted for that reason but appeared to viewers not to have a reason for shooting. The defense is based on a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case, Graham v. Connor, in which the court ruled that officers may use force so long as it is “objectively reasonable.” The court said that that was to be determined by “a reasonable officer on the scene.” One police organization, the Police Executive Research Forum, has published a position paper contesting the Graham v. Connor ruling. ” “Departments should adopt policies that hold themselves to a higher standard than the legal requirements of Graham v. Connor,” the paper says.

The City of West Hollywood issued a statement lamenting the shooting shortly after it occurred. However city council members quickly declared their support for the Sheriff’s deputies. While such shootings have sparked outrage and action by other local governments, to date West Hollywood has experienced only a brief demonstration in April shortly after the shooting occurred. City council members contacted by WEHOville were unaware of the corrective action plan.

WEHOville has requested a copy of the corrective action plan several times over the past year. The Sheriff’s Department had declined to release it, citing legal proceedings. It finally released it this week now that the Mulligan settlement has been made. But the actual “corrective action” was redacted. Laurie Douglas of the Sheriff’s Department’s Discovery Unit told WEHOville today that the redaction was a decision by county attorneys. The plan submitted to WEHOville states that the corrective action plan addressed only the deputies involved and not to “department-wide system issues”


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Woody McBreairty
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Woody McBreairty

C.R., Steve Martin & Randy: I agree with you whole heartedly

Randy
Guest
Randy

Exactly, Steve.

It doesn’t make any sense that the two individuals could have both been considered a threat, when the deputies knew there was only one suspect.

Everyone should be outraged that our city government will not stand up to the LASD.

And the LASD owes this community an explanation of how they might prevent something similar from happening in the future.

Steve Martin
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Steve Martin

I think it is difficult not to be critical of how this “incident” was mishandled by the deputies on the scene. While I don’t expect criminal prosecutions, it is clear that even when the deputies themselves were in no imminent danger, they used excessive force on the two innocent victims. The Department’s version of events does not make sense; if two people come out of the unit and neither is threatening the deputies, why fire? They had to know that at least one of the individuals was NOT the attacker. Even though no one is pointing a gun at the… Read more »

C.R.
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C.R.

The Sheriff’s Dept. should be going out of their way to keep the public’s confidence after this incident yet they choose not to disclose the corrective actions? Unbelievable. The public has a very short memory when it comes to incidents, I certainly hope this one will not be forgotten in West Hollywood history.

Jimmy Palmieri
Guest

this case still haunts me.

Robert Muniz
Guest

Time to dump the LA Sheriff’s Department for another, better policing option…

Larry Block
Guest
Larry Block

Review policies on how police enter residential buildings. My employee was handcuffed and traumatized. He came back to his apt and the cops let him inside, he went upstairs to his unit and opened the door to look out and see what was going on and then was handcuffed.

Woody McBreairty
Guest
Woody McBreairty

I don’t think the word “support” is the appropriate one in reference to the killing & maiming of innocent people by law enforcement. I realize that the city doesn’t want to be critical of the sheriffs’ department & encourage public hostility but this is a very extreme case & support for law enforcement should be specific to those offficers & agencies who operate within the law & department policies & who do not kill innocent people in such a reckless fashion as this. Law enforcement should get all the community support they deserve & all the respect they earn, as… Read more »