West Hollywood mistaken identity death draws emotion in court

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A legal odyssey for a bereaved family and a defendant who went on a stabbing rampage climaxed in court Friday as the attacker pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. (KABC)

A legal odyssey for a bereaved family and a defendant who went on a stabbing rampage climaxed in court Friday as the attacker pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Tearful family members of victim John Winkler spoke out in court about their loss.

Winkler was mistakenly shot by three West Hollywood deputies on April 7, 2014.

The deputies said they had feared for their lives and fired at the 30-year old, thinking he was the knife-wielding attacker Alexander McDonald, 31, whose spree with a butcher knife they had come to stop.

"Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness, the suffering I have seen," said Sandra Winkler, the victim's stepmother.

Alexander McDonald had initially been charged with four felonies, including the murder of Winkler. Though McDonald did not fire a single shot, McDonald "stabbing his buddies" is what summoned deputies. Winkler and another man had burst out the door to escape.

Ultimately, McDonald pleaded guilty to two charges of attempted murder. He dropped his insanity defense, but his lawyer said McDonald had a mental condition that had not been diagnosed. A trace of cocaine was also found in his system.

"I believe he was suffering from severe mental illness, that he was going through a psychotic break," defense attorney Jeremy Lessem said.

Judge Kathryn Solorzan spoke to the chain of unpredictable events and flawed human reaction.

"Once a violent act is carried out, people are incredibly imperfect in their response," Solorzano said.

Winkler's family said they struggle every day.

"It is a hole in our hearts, our lives, our family. One would think logically, intellectually, it would get smaller and smaller with time, but it doesn't," Sandra Winkler said.

McDonald apologized in court.

"I want to say I am sorry for this terrible accident, tragedy. My deepest condolences to the family. I pray for forgiveness," he said.

In contrast to McDonald's 14-year, four-month sentence, Winkler's family said for them, it will be a lifetime of tears, memories and "what if's."

Related Topics:
courtcourt casesentencingman killedlos angeles county sheriff's departmentWest HollywoodLos AngelesLos Angeles County
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