The deputies mistakenly thought one of the men was the victim and the other the suspect, officials said. They opened fire, shooting and killing John Winkler, 30.
“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,” the department’s release said. “Victim Winkler was struck by the gunfire and fell to the floor.”
The other victim, already covered in blood, was struck in the leg by the gunfire and collapsed.
Deputies later realized that Winkler, who was wearing a black shirt and fit the assailant’s description, was a victim.
After shooting Winkler, the deputies found the real suspect, Alexander McDonald, 27, allegedly choking someone inside the apartment, with a knife on the floor nearby, officials said.
Investigators on Thursday said McDonald, shown at right, allegedly held Winkler and two other men hostage inside the apartment at knifepoint, stabbing them and fighting with them as the deputies arrived.
The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office on Thursday charged McDonald in connection with murder, attempted murder and torture after deputies admitted to fatally shooting Winkler.
McDonald pleaded not guilty and was being held in lieu of more than $4 million bail.
Family members told NBC4 Southern California that Winkler moved to Los Angeles six months ago in hopes of becoming a television producer. He recently did production work for Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0.”
“Comedy Central and ‘Tosh.0’ extend their deepest condolences to the family of John Winkler,” Comedy Central said in a statement. “We only had the privilege of working with him for a short while and extend heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends during this tragic time.”
Winkler later died at a hospital. One victim was treated at the hospital for stab wounds and released. Another was treated for stab wounds and a gunshot wound, and was in stable condition as of Thursday afternoon.
Neighbors told NBC4 they’re living in so much fear since the incident, they want to move.
“For me, honestly, I’m going to move out of the building,” neighbor Peter Duckler said. “I feel police acted a little too quick and it just makes me nervous. I’m very nervous to even stay here. So we are actually packing up and we are leaving.”
“They like to shot first and ask questions later,” neighbor Monica Lewis said. “If there was no sign of a weapon or anything there was no reason to shoot them. The poor victims are dead and somebody lost their loved ones.”