Lawyer: Police at wrong address fired through closed door in fatal shooting

A lawyer says police were responding to the wrong home when they fired bullets through a closed door, killing a man inside.

WREG-TV

SOUTHAVEN, Mississippi -- Attorneys for the family of a Mississippi man shot dead by police after they apparently responded to the wrong home say the bullets were fired through a closed door, in contrast to local officials' version of events, reports CBS affiliate WREG-TV.

ismael.jpg

Ismael Lopez

WREG-TV

Ismael Lopez, 41, was sleeping at his home at 5881 Surrey Lane in Southaven just before midnight Sunday when officers with the Southaven Police Department responded to the neighborhood to arrest a suspect in a domestic violence incident. 

The arrest warrant, obtained by WREG-TV, names Samuel Pearman as the target. Pearman lives at 5878 Surrey Lane, across the street from Lopez. A police report also obtained by WREG-TV says the Tate County Sheriff's Department received a complaint that Pearman tried to choke his girlfriend at an Independence gas station, and deputies gave Pearman's address to Southaven police in order to take him into custody.

Southaven officers went to Lopez's house, apparently in error. Differing accounts have emerged of the moments after their arrival.

Desoto County District Attorney John Champion told media outlets Monday that officers may very well have been at the wrong house when the shooting happened. Champion said that a pit bull burst out of the house and ran towards the two officers, reports the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, prompting one of the officers to shoot at it.

Champion reportedly said a man pointed a gun at officers through the open door, and the officers repeatedly warned him to put the gun down before one of them opened fire.

Wednesday, however, Lopez family attorney Murray Wells painted a starkly different picture of the events leading up to Lopez's death. Speaking to reporters, Wells said Lopez's wife was in the bedroom with Lopez and insists her husband did not have a gun when he walked towards the door.

Wells said Lopez's wife never heard any verbal commands or instructions before the officer opened fire, and Lopez's body fell "many feet" from the door.

Wells shared pictures with WREG-TV of the home's door marred with bullet holes. He said investigators he hired concluded that the door was closed when three shots were fired through it, not open as Champion said.

"You can track the trace of the bullets. Three bullets went into that door and the door was shut when those bullets went into the door," Wells said. "My investigative team has concluded it was direct line. ... There is no way the door was cracked open and someone was there."

Wells said the Southaven police department "refuses to take any responsibility" for the incident.

"It's very troubling, very chilling," Wells said.

Southaven Police Deputy Chief Matt Anderson, responding to a request for comment from CBS News Crimesider, said his department isn't commenting because the case is under investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. He referred questions to the bureau and Champion, the district attorney.

Champion didn't respond to a request for comment.

WREG-TV also spoke with the girlfriend of the man police were supposed to be looking for that night, Samuel Pearman. She said she is devastated that police went to the wrong house and shot Lopez, whom she called a friend.

"He has always protected me, always. And now he is dead because Southaven Police shot him. That was good man," the woman told the station through tears.

Pearman remained at large immediately following the shooting, but U.S. Marshals took him into custody at a family member's home, WREG-TV reports. He's being held at Tate County Jail and faces domestic violence charges.

The Lopez family is weighing whether to file a lawsuit.