The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department acknowledged Thursday that its deputies mistakenly shot and killed a aspiring TV producer they thought was a stabbing suspect.
In fact, John Winkler, 30, had gone to a neighbor's apartment Monday night on Palm Avenue in West Hollywood where a man was holding people hostage and tried to help.
Winkler was shot when he rushed out of the apartment with another victim who had been trapped inside the apartment with a third victim and the suspect, sheriff's officials said in a statement.
“The apartment door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out,” the statement said. “He was covered in blood and bleeding profusely from the neck. Simultaneously, victim Winkler ran out of the door, lunging at the back of the fleeing victim. Both ran directly at the deputies.”
Three deputies fired at Winkler. He was shot once and died.
(Edit: The original victim was also shot in the leg.)
Three deputies, firing altogether 7 shots from only a few feet away. Only two hit their mark. This tells me that the shots they fired were done while in a blind panic. The culture values the safety of the officer, often in exclusion to all else. The view is reinforced by the fact that they face few, if any, consequences when they take a life. There is a county in Illinois with records going back 160 years, without one example of an officer being held responsible for a wrongful death. While this is technically possible, it is statistically unlikely to the point of absurdity. Anyone with a dangerous job can tell you that, if you're overly concerned with your own safety, it becomes just that much more dangerous. Not only for you, but everyone around you. For those people, I suggest a change of career. Maybe a nice, safe flower shop somewhere.
We weren't always such weenies.
When I was in high school, my friends and I would often go target shooting in the desert. Plinkin', we called it. On the way back home one day, I happened to be speeding, and was pulled over by a DPS officer. Now, imagine being a lone cop, walking up to a car full of rough, long haired teenagers who are armed to the teeth. Wanna know what he did? He gave me a warning, and left, telling us to, "stow those weapons before you blow your damn fool heads off" He was actually concerned for OUR safety.
Those days are long gone. Today, there would have been helicopters, SWAT teams, tanks, body cavity searches, and, of course, bloodshed. Cowardice makes just about every endeavor more dangerous.
Somewhere along the line, we came to believe that there is actually such a thing as a risk free existence. There isn't, nor should there be. That way lies extinction for the lot of us.
Certainly risk can be managed to a point, but once you go past it, you lose essential, hard-won liberties. You end up living in a very secure prison of your own making. There was a time when most people knew this, at least on some level, yet still had the courage to go on about their lives. Now, we are saturated in fear, with voices from every direction telling us what to fear, and just how afraid to be of it.
If we continue this course, we will end up as a nation populated by people who are conditioned from birth to keep their head down, and draw as little attention to themselves as possible. These are people who will never fail, because the consequences for failure will be so immediate, so great, and so permanent that no one will dare risk anything. NSA spying will no longer be a concern, because there won't be anything left worth spying on.
John Winkler was a brave man. A man who didn't hesitate to come to the aid of his neighbor. Had he lived, I think he would have eventually found that living among those with so much firepower, and so little courage to be a fate worse than death.
Whether it is the malice of Albuquerque, or the ineptitude of Los Angeles, the result ends up being the same.