Like many who trek to Hollywood from Anywheresville, USA, John Winkler had big dreams.
The 30-year-old moved to Tinseltown from Washington state six months ago in pursuit of an entertainment career, specifically as a television producer.
Things were looking up, too — he was recently hired as a temporary production assistant for the comedy show, “Tosh.0.”
But Winkler’s dreams are no more.
In a terrifying incident that reads like a page from a script, Winkler was shot dead by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies after they mistook him for a stabbing suspect holding hostages in a Hollywood apartment, according the Los Angeles Times.
Interim Sheriff John Scott called Monday’s shooting “very tragic.”
Winkler reportedly heard two friends screaming in another unit around 9:30 p.m. and rushed over to help. Inside, a man was holding his friends hostage at knifepoint, and Winkler quickly became a hostage himself.
When sheriff’s deputies responded to the call about the situation, a witness at the large apartment complex off Santa Monica Boulevard told them there were two men in the apartment and that the assailant was a thin white man wearing a black shirt, according to the statement.
First deputies “announced themselves” at the unit but received no response.
Then, the door suddenly burst open and a man covered in blood came running out.
On his heels was Winkler “lunging at the back of the fleeing victim,” according to the department.
Thinking “Winkler was the assailant and the assault was ongoing and he would attack the entry team,” three deputies fired at Winkler. He was shot once and died.
It turns out the real assailant was still in the unit with the remaining hostage, as deputies heard “sounds of a fight coming from inside the apartment,” according to the statement. After entering the unit, they witnessed the suspect, identified as Alexander McDonald, choking a victim and “tearing at his face,” officials said.
Officials said that when deputies arrived at the scene, McDonald flew into “a rage … began stabbing the men and fighting with them.”
Deputies arrested McDonald, 27, who has been charged with one count of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and one count of torture. He’s being held on $4 million bail.
A woman who lives directly below the unit but didn’t want to be named said she heard voices shouting, “Get down! Get down!” and several popping noises, followed by a scream.
“It was a primal scream,” the woman said. “It was fear, it was absolutely horrible.”
The second victim who ran out of unit ahead of Winkler was also shot by deputies, but in the leg. He was in stable condition after treatment for stab wounds to the neck and the gunshot wound.
[sharequote align=”center”]“It was a primal scream. It was fear, it was absolutely horrible.”[/sharequote]
The third victim was treated for stab wounds to the leg, arms and chest and released from a hospital. Officials said McDonald and one of the victims were roommates.
“It’s just a really sad story,” Winkler’s friend Devin Richardson told the Times. “He basically went to help some neighbors and ends up getting shot.”
Winkler hailed from Puyallup, Wash., according to KIRO-TV in Seattle, adding that his Facebook page notes he studied directing at the Seattle Film Institute and was a member of the class of 2010.
An aunt said Winkler — based on the last phone call she had with him — was very happy living in Hollywood.
“He was just boisterous and excited, he was just getting his foot in the door of life,” Anne-Marie Van Wart, 62, of Tacoma, Wash., told the Times. “Just, the light was right around the corner…and [now] he’s gone.”