A Florida family mourned the loss of their loved one for over two weeks while the man who killed him walked free—until he was finally charged with second-degree murder on Friday night. Lakeland City Commissioner Michael Dunn is being held without bond after being indicted for shooting Christobal Lopez on October 3.
Dunn is claiming self-defense, via Florida’s horrific “Stand Your Ground” law.
State Attorney Brian Haas disagrees.
“It is the policy of my office to comply with and abide by the Stand Your Ground Law, however, I have determined that this case and the actions of Mr. Dunn fall outside the protection of the Stand Your Ground Law,” said Haas.
Authorities in Lakeland, a city of about 100,000 east of Tampa, ultimately turned the case over to Florida state cops after nine days of the investigation.
Lopez, 50, was shopping with his father at the Vets Army Navy Surplus Store, which Dunn, who became City Commissioner in 2018, also owns. Police say that Lopez was seen placing a hatchet under his clothing while Dunn watched surveillance footage in his office.
As Lopez and his father started to leave the store after purchasing a hat, Dunn confronted Lopez. During the confrontation, police say, the ax fell down Lopez’s pant leg onto the floor.Lopez picked it up and said he would pay for the ax, but he tried to leave right after he reached the cash register, according to police.
In order to justify the use of Stand Your Ground—the Sunshine State’s controversial law that is often referred to by its numerous critics as “a license to kill”—Dunn claims he “acted out of fear,” while his attorney, Rusty Franklin, insists that Lopez was “wielding an axe.”
Surveillance footage, however, tells a very different story.
“At no time did the victim appear to have made any threatening movements towards the suspect,” the affidavit states.
Lopez was carrying the ax but he was holding its blade in the palm of his hand, a probable cause affidavit says.
Surveillance video […] appears to show Lopez trying to leave as Dunn grabs him by the shirt. Lopez is then seen holding onto the handle of the store front door while Dunn tries to pull him back inside the store.
Dunn, who was holding a firearm in his other hand, lost his grip of Lopez’s shirt and fired two shots, police say.
Additionally, eyewitnesses told police that Lopez made no verbal threats.
When police arrived, Dunn had his gun trained on Lopez as he stood over him, and simply said: “I think he expired.” According to the affidavit, Dunn offered Lopez no medical assistance after shooting him twice; Lopez died at the scene.
Despite the delay in charges, Lopez’s family expressed relief and gratitude in a statement released through their attorney, Adam Kemp.
There is no way to undo the life-shattering harm that Mr. Dunn caused, but we are pleased that the State Attorney’s Office is moving forward with criminal charges for such an unnecessary and egregious use of deadly force. We want to thank the State Attorney’s Office and State Attorney Brian Haas for making the decision to charge Mr. Dunn and not delaying justice. We are hopeful that through both this criminal proceeding and the civil suit we plan to file, Mr. Dunn will be held fully accountable for the senseless killing of Christobal Lopez.
Dunn next sees a judge in November. If convicted of second-degree murder, Dunn faces life in prison.
In a horrifying coincidence, the Lakeland city commissioner isn’t even the first Michael Dunn to try to use Stand Your Ground to justify deadly gunfire. In 2014, Michael Dunn of Jacksonville was convicted for the 2012 murder of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, who he shot because he didn’t like the loud music coming from the car in which the ROTC student was a passenger. Transformed into activism after her son’s murder, Davis’ mother, Lucy McBath, is now an Obama-endorsed candidate running for Congress in Georgia.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.