Man says he shot neighbor in self-defense
By Rebecca Nolan
James Michael Winkelman says he fatally shot a neighbor in self-defense when the other man threatened him with a gun.
He says 43-year-old Todd Alan Hughes pulled a handgun on him Tuesday as Winkelman tried to detain the man for police. Winkelman's daughter believed that Hughes had raped a woman in the street, and Winkelman was trying to make sure he didn't disappear before officers arrived.
Now Winkelman, 48, is struggling to deal with the fact that he took another person's life. It hasn't been easy.
"I don't feel happy and proud," Winkelman said Thursday. "I feel like I killed a human being. I caused a lot of pain for his family, and I caused a lot of pain for my family. We're devastated."
Winkelman decided to tell his story so people would understand that "I'm not some kind of gun-happy nut that my daughter tells me someone's being raped and I just go down there and shoot someone."
It was more complicated than that, he said.
Winkelman looks tough, but his body has been destroyed by a series of violent car wrecks that fractured nearly every bone. He also suffers from Meniere's syndrome, a disease of the inner ear that affects balance and hearing.
Because of these vulnerabilities, he obtained a concealed handgun permit and carries a gun whenever he leaves the house. He was carrying a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun on Tuesday night when he went out to walk one of the two family dogs.
His 13-year-old daughter ran up to him out of breath and hysterical. She said a man with long red hair was raping a woman on the sidewalk at the corner of West 13th Avenue and Garfield Street. She said the woman was screaming for help and for someone to call the police. She said she saw the man run into the house at 2020 W. 13th Ave.
Winkelman doesn't have a cell phone, so he and his daughter ran to a house on Arthur Street and flagged down a neighbor. The girl went to call police, and the neighbor drove Winkelman to the house so he could wait for officers to arrive.
Winkelman said he saw someone peeking out through the window. "I said, `Dude, the police are coming. Stay in the house,' " Winkelman said. Soon, though, Winkelman saw a man stepping out of the backyard onto West 13th.
"I ran over to him and confronted him," Winkelman said. "I told him, `My daughter said you were raping a person. Sit down on the porch and wait for police.' "
The man said he hadn't done anything. He said the woman was his wife; they were drunk; they'd had a fight. The man continued to walk west, away from the house. Winkelman told him over and over to sit down and wait for police.
"He had his back to me," Winkelman said. "He stuck his hands in his pockets and was fumbling around. I said, `Get your ... hands out of your pockets.' "
That's when Winkelman drew his gun from its holster. He had the safety on and his finger was on the frame, not the trigger, he said. He said he ordered the man four times to put his hands where he could see them.
Instead, the man turned around and started to walk back toward the house. "He was looking right at me," Winkelman said. "I showed him I was taking the safety off and putting my finger on the trigger."
He said he ordered the man to stop and show his hands 20 to 25 times. The man did stop, right in front of the house. He and Winkelman were about three feet apart.
Winkelman said the man whipped around and pulled a semiautomatic handgun from his pocket. He remembers it had pearl inlay on the grip.
"It was so close I tried to hit it out of the way with my left hand," Winkelman said. "At the same time, I dropped my gun down toward my waist and started firing.
"I popped off five rounds," he said. "I kept shooting until he dropped the pistol. He fell to the ground and rolled over."
Winkelman thought he heard the man say something. He leaned closer and realized he was hearing gurgling noises caused by a sucking chest wound. His six years experience in the Army told him that CPR would increase the damage. So he started screaming for an ambulance. He ran to Garfield Street and shouted for passing cars to call 911. Finally, a neighbor walked out with a cell phone, and Winkelman spoke to dispatchers.
An officer arrived and shined a bright light on Winkelman, who slowly set the weapon down in the street. He said he complied with the officer's orders. He noticed that he was shaking violently and hyperventilating. Detectives took him to City Hall, where they interviewed him until about midnight. Winkelman said they believed his story and returned his concealed weapons permit, though they kept the gun for evidence.
"They said, `Look, you're going home tonight,' " Winkelman said. "They said if they had any doubts about what I was telling them, I would not be going home tonight."
Police have said Winkelman is cooperating with the investigation. Police spokeswoman Pam Olshanski said she could not confirm Winkelman's story until the investigation is complete. She said the Lane County district attorney's office will decide whether to file any charges.
Winkelman couldn't explain why Hughes' girlfriend later said Hughes wasn't raping her. She told police he was beating her that night.
He said he empathized with Hughes' family and friends, who have been congregating at the house since the night he died. He said he'd only encountered the man twice before while walking his dog down the street - and those two interactions persuaded him to avoid the area.
Winkelman said he was trying to be a good citizen. "I'm not a police officer, but I'm certainly not going to let someone accused of a crime like that go wandering off," he said. "He may have been a really great person, but he was out there beating the living hell out of that woman on the street."