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Police at wrong address shoot, kill unarmed man inside home, lawyer says

Ismael Lopez

WREG

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. -- Police in northern Mississippi shot and killed a man inside his home Sunday while attempting to serve an arrest warrant intended for a person who lived across the street, a family lawyer said Wednesday.

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 CBS affiliate WREG-TV, names Samuel Pearman the target. Pearman lives at 5878 Surrey Lane, across the street from Lopez. A police report also obtained by WREG 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 arrived at 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. In an interview with CBS News' Crimesider, 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. She says a handgun he normally kept in the bedroom was still there after he was shot.

Wells said she never heard any verbal commands or instructions before the officer opened fire, and two neighbors his office interviewed also said they didn't hear any commands from police. Wells said Lopez's body fell "many feet" from the door, and the shots were fired through the door while it was closed.

"They should have never been on the property in the first place," Wells said.

Lopez's wife was handcuffed, taken to a squad car, held for an hour and then taken to a police station before she was informed "in a not-too-gentle way that her husband was gone," Wells said.

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 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 immediately respond to a request for comment.

The shooting has sparked outrage.

"They're trigger happy, and they killed an innocent man," family friend Samantha Holmes told WREG. "They did not get their facts straight before they barged in on him."

The neighbor, Pearman, remains at large, according to WREG. The officer who fired the shots has been placed on non-enforcement status but has not been suspended, Southaven police told the station Tuesday.

Wells said he is preparing to file a civil rights lawsuit.