Watch CBS News

Video shows Florida city commissioner shooting accused shoplifter dead

Authorities in Lakeland, Florida, released surveillance footage Monday showing a city commissioner fatally shooting an alleged shoplifter earlier this month outside a military supply store he co-owns. Michael Dunn, who took office in January, fired a gun after seeing a customer taking a hatchet and trying to leave without paying, the Lakeland Police Department said.

The seven-minute video from inside the Vet Army Navy Surplus store Oct. 3 shows Christobal Lopez, 50, attempting to exit the store with an object in his right hand as Dunn confronts him with a gun. Dunn grabs him by the shirt before apparently firing the weapon and striking Lopez, who was later pronounced dead at the scene. 

Police said Lopez hid the hatchet while his father was making a purchase –– and Dunn asked Lopez if he was going to pay for it before the encounter escalated. Lopez still had the hatchet when he was shot, according to authorities, but it's unclear if he was holding the weapon or it was hidden in his pants. Surveillance video doesn't clearly show what he took.

Update on Shooting Investigation - Release of Surveillance Video

Update on Shooting Investigation - Release of Surveillance Video On October 4th, Chief Larry Giddens issued the following statement in regard to the shooting that occurred the day prior. "We have received multiple requests for comments, reports, surveillance videos and evidence regarding the shooting at the Vets Army Navy Surplus store. Please understand this is an ongoing criminal investigation. We are working with the State Attorney's Office and the Medical Examiners Office, two wonderfully reputable agencies, to ensure this investigation is done in the most transparent, professional way possible. Until the investigation is complete, it would be inappropriate to comment further." At this time, in the interest of transparency, although the criminal investigation continues to be active, we at the Lakeland Police Department have requested and received the approval of the State Attorney's Office to release all the videos which show the shooting that occurred on October 3rd. Raw files of the videos have been submitted to the State Attorney's Office and media. The clips shown here have been shortened for the sake of time, showing only when activity is occurring. Though citizens may have strong feelings about what is depicted, we ask you to remain patient as our department continues to work with the State Attorney's Office to investigate.

Posted by LakelandPD on Monday, October 15, 2018

The fatal shooting comes amid scrutiny over the state's controversial "stand your ground" law, which says a person can use deadly force "if the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against such other's imminent use of unlawful force." In August, a man was charged with manslaughter after he shot and killed a father of three who shoved him in a parking lot.

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Educational Fund, called out the "stand your ground" law on Twitter, saying, "We are allowing private citizens to impose the death penalty for shoplifting."

Lakeland police and the State Attorney's Office for the 10th Judicial Circuit are investigating the shooting.

Chief Larry Giddens released a statement a day after the Oct. 3 shooting initially happened.

"Please understand this is an ongoing criminal investigation," Giddens said. "Until the investigation is complete, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

At this point, Dunn hasn't been charged, according to the State Attorney's Office.

"The investigation of the shooting at Army Navy Surplus Store continues," said State Attorney Brian Haas in a statement to CBS News on Tuesday. He anticipates the probe to finish by the end of the week.

Rusty Franklin, a lawyer for Michael Dunn, didn't immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.