Lakeland commissioner arrested, charged with murder for shooting suspected shoplifter

And it isn't the first time City Commissioner Michael Dunn has shot someone.

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Lakeland commissioner arrested, charged with murder for shooting suspected shoplifter
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A Lakeland city commissioner was arrested and charged with second-degree murder for shooting a suspected shoplifter trying to leave from a military supply store. 

City Commissioner Michael Dunn, 47, was indicted by a grand jury for the Oct. 3 killing of Christobal Lopez, 50, on Friday, Oct. 19, says State Attorney Brian Haas, the prosecutor for Polk, Highlands and Hardee Counties. 

In a video released by the Lakeland Police Department, Dunn is seen struggling with Lopez inside the Vets Army Navy Surplus store, which is co-owned by Dunn. 


The commissioner told police he saw Lopez attempt to steal a hatchet. The video shows Dunn holding a handgun in his hand as Lopez tries to flee out the door with something in his hand, though the object can't be clearly seen. With the gun pointed at Lopez, Dunn grabs the man by his shoulder and pulls him by his shirt as he attempts to break from Dunn's grasp. Still holding him, Dunn fires into Lopez's back. 

Lopez falls to the ground and soon becomes motionless as Dunn keeps his gun trained on him. The Lakeland Ledger reports a medical examiner found Lopez died from two gunshot wounds. 

The Ledger has previously reported that Lopez isn't the first person the commissioner has shot — Dunn accidentally shot someone when he was 19 years old. 

"It is the policy of my office to comply with and abide stand your ground law," Haas says. "However, I have determined that this case and the actions of Mr. Dunn fall outside the protection of the stand your ground law." 

Florida's "stand your ground" law allows people to use deadly force if they believe it is necessary to "prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony," according to state statute. 

Haas says the grand jury carefully considered evidence in indicting Dunn on the specific charge of second-degree murder, a first-degree felony with a maximum sentence of life in prison. Dunn was taken into custody at his attorney's office and is currently at the Polk County jail with no bond. 

In a press conference with Haas on Friday, Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens also addressed why the investigation into Lopez's killing took so long. 

"Please realize that the Lakeland Police Department submitted the complaint affidavit for this crime to the State Attorney’s Office just nine days after the shooting," Giddens says. "In those few days, the scene was processed, all witnesses were interviewed, the victim’s family was interviewed, the defendant’s statement was obtained, multiple reports were written, the medical examiner’s office conducted their investigation, the surveillance video was downloaded and then compiled so that it could be viewed." 

Giddens says the agency partnered with the state attorney's office to make sure the investigation was done in a "transparent, cooperative manner." 

"The process was one which was handled with the utmost care, as all investigations must be," he says. "Although this investigation may have taken longer than some would have liked, we had an obligation to do it right, and that is what we will always do to ensure the citizens of this community can continue to have the faith and confidence in us that we have earned over these past several years." 

Gov. Rick Scott has been notified about Dunn's arrest, Haas says. The governor has the power to suspend and remove elected officials who are arrested and convicted of serious offenses. 

A Scott spokesperson said Friday night the office will "review" Dunn's case.

This article originally appeared in Orlando Weekly.

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