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Police: Shoplifter did not verbally, physically threaten Lakeland commissioner before fatal shooting

Posted: 9:14 PM, Oct 19, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-22 20:34:08Z

LAKELAND, Fla. — A newly released arrest affidavit reveals why a grand jury indicted Lakeland City Commissioner Michael Dunn on a second-degree murder charge. Dunn fatally shot an alleged shoplifter on October 3.

Surveillance video of the shooting shows Dunn, 47, shoot Christobal Lopez, 50 at the Vets Army & Navy Surplus store located at 819 N. Florida Ave. Lopez was pronounced dead on scene. 

According to Dunn's arrest affidavit, video surveillance showed Lopez remove a hatchet from a display rack inside the store and conceal it in the front of his pants and underneath his shirt. Dunn, who is a co-owner of the store, witnessed this from his store office. Dunn is seen exiting the office, concealing his firearm in the waistband of his pants. Police say that Dunn walked to the front door of the store, presumably to prevent Lopez from leaving the store with the hatchet.

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After Lopez's father made a purchase at the front counter, the pair begins to leave the store when Lopez is confronted by Dunn about paying for the hatchet. 

"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," the arrest affidavit reads.

Video surveillance captured Dunn pushing Lopez with an open left hand while he pointed his firearm. During which time, Lopez was attempting to leave the store, police say. Dunn is seen grabbing Lopez by the shirt and attempting to pull Lopez back into the store while holding his firearm in a "low ready" position, police say. Police note that although Lopez had the hatchet in his right hand, the blade of the hatchet was facing the palm of his own hand. 

At some point, Dunn lost grip of Lopez's shirt, at which time he raised his firearm to "eye-level" and fired two successive shots. The first shot struck the left side of his upper torso, and the second struck his mid-back, police say. Lopez was pronounced dead at the scene.

"At no time did the victim (Lopez) appear to have made any threatening movements towards the suspect (Dunn)," the arrest affidavit reads.

Police also note that witnesses revealed that Lopez did not make any verbal threats towards Dunn.


Michael Dunn, 47

In an interview following his arrest, Dunn admitted to shooting Lopez twice because he was stealing the hatchet from his business. According to the arrest affidavit, Dunn told police that he was in fear, but when he was asked what would have happened if he let go of the victim, Dunn 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!"

Police also note that Dunn made no attempt to render aid to Lopez.

"Given the above, the suspect (Michael Dunn) shot and killed the victim (Christobal Lopez) without lawful justification," the arrest affidavit goes on to say.

Dunn was indicted on Friday and booked into the Polk County Jail on a charge of second-degree murder. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.