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A man who recently moved from Pierce County was fatally shot in West Hollywood Monday by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies who mistook him for a stabbing suspect, the sheriff’s department said Thursday.

John Winkler, 30, a West Hollywood resident, and two other men were held captive at knife point inside the suspect’s apartment at about 9:30 p.m. Monday, according to the sheriff’s department.

Winkler and one of the other men were visiting a friend, who was a roommate of the suspect, identified by the department as Alexander McDonald. McDonald, who is also from the Puget Sound area, began stabbing the men as deputies arrived, the sheriff’s department said.

The deputies were directed to an apartment and told there were only two men inside — one of them being the suspect, the sheriff’s department said.

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Deputies announced themselves at the door but heard no response. While they were still attempting to establish contact, “the apartment door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out,” according to a news release. “He was covered in blood and bleeding profusely from the neck.”

Next Winkler ran out the door and lunged at the back of the first victim as both ran directly toward deputies. Three deputies shot Winkler, and he fell to the floor. The other victim was also struck by a police bullet and fell.

Deputies then entered the apartment and saw McDonald on the floor of the living room, choking and tearing at another man, the department said. McDonald was subdued and arrested.

Winkler and the other two victims were taken to a hospital, where Winkler was pronounced dead.

Winkler moved to Los Angeles six months ago to pursue his interest in writing and stand-up comedy, said Jasmine Layton, who first met him 15 years ago when they were students at Puyallup High School. He had recently started a job as a production assistant at Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0” and was enjoying the opportunities he had in California for networking and exposure.

“He wanted to go and follow his dream and his passion and experience whatever it was that he could,” said Layton, who lives in Colorado. “He just wanted to follow his dreams.”

Winkler attended the Seattle Film Institute, where he was a well-liked, good student, communications director Chris Blanchett said. He graduated from the institute in 2009. He was a Seattle sports fan and made sure to watch Seahawks games when he was in California.

“He definitely had the personality type of someone well-suited to be a producer,” Blanchett said Thursday. “He was a genuinely nice guy.”

McDonald, 27, has been charged with murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count of torture, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said Thursday. His previous addresses include homes in Shoreline and Edmonds, and he attended Shoreline Community College, according to his LinkedIn page.

He is in custody in lieu of $4.12 million bail.

Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2530 or

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