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Mississippi Cops Fatally Shot an Undocumented Man They Mistook for a Domestic Violence Suspect

Now, the city is trying to avoid a lawsuit by arguing he doesn't have any constitutional rights.

by Emma Ockerman
Sep 27 2019, 3:40pm

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When local Mississippi police barged into the home of an undocumented auto mechanic in 2017, they had the wrong guy. Officers thought 41-year-old Ismael Lopez was a domestic violence suspect — and ended up shooting him in the back of the head and killing him.

The slaying sparked furious protests among the town’s Latino community and a $20 million federal civil rights lawsuit lawsuit from Lopez’ widow after a grand jury declined to indict the Southaven police department officers involved in the shooting: Samuel Maze and Zachary Durden.

But attorneys for the city are now arguing the entire lawsuit should be tossed out because undocumented immigrants don’t have constitutional rights, attorneys representing Lopez’ family said during a press conference Thursday.

“This is an attempt to chip away at our constitution,” one of the attorneys representing the Lopez family, Murray Wells, said Thursday.

The attorney also noted that the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the basic rights of all people present in the U.S. despite any immigration status. The high court ruled in 1982, for example, that undocumented kids have the right to a basic education.

Specifically, Southaven attorneys said Lopez wasn’t entitled to rights under the Fourth Amendment and 14th Amendment, since he had no “legally recognized relationship” with the U.S. The amendments protect people from unreasonable police searches and provide equal protection to all people, respectively.

Police in the town have also long argued that Lopez brandished a gun when they were attempting to serve a warrant — again to the wrong person — in his mobile home, although Lopez’s family denies that allegation, according to the Post.

Attorneys haven’t just argued against Lopez lacked constitutional rights — they’ve fought his widow, Claudia Linares, since she’s an undocumented immigrant, as well. She struggled to prove she was married to Lopez, according to WMC-TV. Then, once she filed the civil rights lawsuit, attorneys accused her of being married to two men at the same time. Linares’ attorneys said the couple was married for more than 20 years.

Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite’s office said in a statement to the local DeSoto Times-Tribune that the Lopez attorneys’ claims are “misleading.”

"As I’ve stated before, the City of Southaven will defend this matter in the court of law, not in the media via press conferences with ridiculously-misleading sound bites," Musselwhite said.

The FBI also investigated a federal civil rights complaint regarding the shooting, according to CBS affiliate WREG-TV, but said in October 2018 that it wouldn’t pursue any further action.

Cover image: A policeman with his hand close to his gun. (wellphoto/Getty Images)