Florida Commissioner Charged With Murder, Held Without Bond After Killing Suspected Shoplifter

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
October 20, 2018US News

A city commissioner in Florida seen on video shooting to death a suspected shoplifter was charged with murder and ordered held without bond.

Michael Dunn, the city commissioner for Lakeland, also co-owns an Army-Navy surplus store called Vet’s Surplus Inc.

Dunn said he saw Cristobal Lopez, 50, grabbing a hatchet in his store and trying to flee the store without paying.

“Dunn stopped Lopez asking him if he was going to pay for the item and a confrontation ensued. Dunn then fired his weapon, striking Lopez who was still in possession of the hatchet,” the Lakeland Police Department said in a statement.

Lopez’s father and two store employees witnessed the shooting, which took place on Oct. 3.

The surveillance footage also clearly captured Dunn shooting Lopez.

Lakeland police release video of shooting by commisssioner
Police in Lakeland, Fla., have released surveillance camera footage showing a local politician, Michael Dunn, shooting and killing an alleged shoplifter on Oct. 3, 2018. (Lakeland Police)

Charged With Murder

Dunn, who took office in January, was charged with second-degree murder.

A judge ruled on Oct. 20 that Dunn will remain held without bond at the Polk County Jail, reported WFTS. A grand jury indicted Dunn on Oct. 19.

Dunn’s next court appearance is set for Nov. 6.

Dunn told officers that he was in fear when he shot Lopez. According to an arrest affidavit, when asked what would have happened if he didn’t shoot him, he replied, “It might be fair to say, that if I just stepped back and let somebody come in and take what they want, that there would be no issue!”

Polk County State Attorney Brian Haas told reporters at a press conference on Friday that he thinks Dunn might try to use Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law as a defense but he believes the case falls outside of the protection of the law.

Michael Dunn of Lakeland
Michael Dunn, city commissioner of Lakeland, Fla., in an undated booking photo. (Polk County Jail)

Witness Speaks

One of the witnesses told police that Lopez’s father had bought something at the front counter and he and his son were on their way out of the store when a hatchet apparently in the younger Lopez’s pants fell to the floor, according to the affidavit, which was obtained by WFTS.

“The hatchet falls down the victim’s pant leg onto the floor. The victim picked up the hatchet, at this time, according to witness [redacted], the victim made the statement, ‘I will pay, I will pay!’ as he walked back toward the cash register counter area. The surveillance shows that the victim stood at the counter for a moment before hastily attempting to leave the business with the hatchet in hand,” according to the arrest affidavit.

When Dunn shot Lopez, Lopez was holding the hatchet, although officers noted that the blade was facing away from Dunn.

“At no time did the victim (Lopez) appear to have made any threatening movements toward the suspect (Dunn),” according to the affidavit. Witnesses confirmed Lopez didn’t threaten Dunn verbally.

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