Politician whips out gun and fatally shoots alleged shoplifter with 'hatchet in his pants'
The local politician, who has been identified as 47-year-old Michael Dunn, of Lake, might end up behind bars as prosecutors are weighing criminal charges against him
WARNING: DISTURBING FOOTAGE
Police officials in Florida have released a shocking surveillance footage which shows a city commissioner confronting an alleged shoplifter inside an Army Navy Surplus store and then shooting and killing the man as he tries to flee.
The local politician, who has been identified as 47-year-old Michael Dunn of Lake, might end up behind bars as prosecutors are weighing criminal charges against him after the release of the footage on Monday.
Legal experts, while talking to Tampa Bay Times, said that although the politician has Florida's Stand Your Ground law on his side, it, however, does not appear that he was in any danger or was in fear of his life from the victim, identified as 50-year-old Cristobal Lopez, during the incident.
Florida law permits people to use deadly force when facing "imminent death or great bodily harm". A person "has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground if he or she thinks deadly force is necessary to prevent death, great bodily harm or commission of a forcible felony like robbery," according to law.
A Tampa criminal defense attorney and a former prosecutor, Tim Hessinger, said: "This is a very difficult case to defend."
A former prosecutor with the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office, Bill Loughery, said: "Just from the video it doesn’t look like Mr. Dunn was in fear and wasn’t justified in shooting Mr. Lopez as he was leaving. It appeared that, because he had his gun, Mr. Dunn was in charge of the situation from the standpoint he was directing Mr. Lopez what to do."
The footage of the incident, which occurred on October 3, shows Dunn confronting 50-year-old Cristobal Lopez, inside the Vets Army Navy Surplus store in Lakeland. Police officials said that Dunn shot Lopez after suspecting that he had swiped a hatchet and had attempted to walk out of the store with it inside his pants, according to reports.
Dunn, who is a native of Hardee County, had reportedly been shopping for hats with his father when the shooting occurred. If the local politician is arrested, he could be suspended from office by the governor. Reports state that Dunn still has six more months left on his term.
The politician's lawyer, however, has said that Dunn was justified in shooting and killing the shoplifting suspect.
Attorney Rusty Franklin, while talking to News Chief, said: "There was shoplifting, he was told to pay and there was resistance. Michael recognizes he didn't set these things in motion. He acted responsibly and legally."