Investigators in Florida are considering whether a city official who fatally shot a man who was attempting to shoplift from his military surplus store should face criminal charges.
Police from Lakeland, a large city east of Tampa, released surveillance footage Monday of the Oct. 3 incident at the Vets Army & Navy surplus store, owned by city commissioner Michael Dunn.
According to police, Cristobal Lopez, 50, and his father, entered the store commissioner around 2:30 p.m. As the father was making a purchase, Dunn saw Lopez pick up a hatchet, and conceal it, before heading for the exit. In the video, Dunn is seen grabbing Lopez by his T-shirt in the doorway as he tries to leave, drawing his weapon, and shooting him at close range in the chest. Lopez falls to the ground just outside the door, and Dunn watches him die.
No charges have been filed, but the incident is under investigation, Lakeland Police Department public information officer Gary Gross told VICE News. The case has stirred discussion of the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, though the state attorney hasn't said whether Dunn has invoked it in his defense.
The 47-year-old commissioner is an ardent gun rights advocate, according to the Tampa Bay Times, and even hosted a rally in July at his store to counter a nearby March for our Lives rally, that had been organized in response to the mass shooting at the high school in Parkland earlier this year. According to the Lakeland Ledger, Dunn accidentally shot someone when he was 19 (the victim survived).
Dunn’s actions may not be covered by Stand Your Ground, which was adopted in 2005 and is often invoked as a defense in criminal cases. The law says that a person can use deadly force if they believe their life or someone else’s is in danger. In this instance, the video shows clearly that Lopez is trying to escape.