Florida Official Who Shot Shoplifter Charged with 2nd Degree Murder

State attorney Brian Haas believes that Florida’s stand-your-ground law does not apply to this case.  (Photo: Facebook/Lakeland Police)

The Florida official who fatally shot an alleged shoplifter earlier this month is being charged with second-degree murder after being indicted by a Polk County Grand Jury.

State Attorney Brian Haas said at a press conference Friday that 47-year-old Michael Dunn’s use of deadly force against Christobal Lopez, 50, falls “outside the protection” of Florida’s stand-your-ground law, which allows one to use force, including deadly force, without a duty to retreat if one reasonably fears imminent death or great bodily harm.

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

Surveillance footage released last week shows Dunn confronting Lopez as he makes for the exit of the Lakeland city commissioner’s military surplus store on Oct. 3. Dunn grabs Lopez by the shirt as he tries to leave with the $16 hatchet he was suspected of stealing. Seconds later, Dunn fires two shots, killing Lopez.

An Attorney for the Lopez family told Channel 9 that they were “pleased” with the grand jury’s decision to indict Mr. Dunn.

Watch: Florida City Official Fatally Shoots Alleged Shoplifter

“There is no way to undo the life-shattering harm that Mr. Dunn caused, but we are pleased with the grand jury’s decision for such an unnecessary and egregious use of deadly force,” said the attorney.

“We want to thank the State Attorney’s Office and the Lakeland Police Department for their swift and thorough investigation. We are hopeful that through both this criminal proceeding and the civil suit we plan to file, Mr. Dunn will be held fully accountable for the senseless killing of Christobal Lopez,” continued the statement.

Meanwhile, an attorney for Dunn said that the video footage doesn’t tell the whole story and that his client was acting in self-defense.

“We will offer evidence in this case that (Dunn) was confronted by an armed shoplifter with an ax,” Rusty Franklin told the Ledger. “It was in his hand. A video only shows 10 seconds of what happened. There were other witnesses in the store. I don’t know what they said to the grand jury or to the police, but I have conducted interviews of them and they believe that Michael was acting in self-defense.”

If convicted of second-degree murder Dunn could spend the rest of his life in prison. Dunn is being held in Polk County jail without bond.

Well, what do you think?  Will Dunn be found guilty of 2nd-degree murder?  Or is there room to make a credible case of lawful self-defense?

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About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 31 comments… add one }
  • Jay October 27, 2018, 8:27 am

    We don’t have or know but a small part of the evidence, If there were other witnesses in the store and only a short video clip. Many times things are not as they seem. We will find out in the end and hope Mother Justice is served! I think most will agree from what the video shows this was a bad call to shoot!

  • alex October 26, 2018, 11:44 pm

    this jerkoff comes into this man’s store and steals a 16 dollar hatchet,something he’s probably did a thousand times before and got away with it. now his family is happy that they arrested the store owner,of course they’ll get some scumbag lawyer to sue the store owner for everything he has,the guy will probably spend the rest of his life in prison.well at least sticky finger’s life time of crime came to an end,too bad a man’s life is ruined over scum.

  • Rick October 26, 2018, 8:19 pm

    Hang him high.

  • warren Wilson October 26, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Finally we do see a limit to the use of deadly force.
    This is a good call because there’s no death penalty for shoplifting and the shooter had no reasonable fear for his life. If the shoplifter had unsheathed the hatchet to render it a weapon, the story would be different. Of course, if my granny had testes she’d be my gramps.

    • Tod October 26, 2018, 2:55 pm

      “If my granny had testes she’d be my gramps”
      Uh maybe not in today’s world.

  • Bill H. October 26, 2018, 9:52 am

    So what part of the “hatchet” being a DEADLY weapon are we missing? If the guy would have punked out and let him walk, then the perp went down the street to slaughter the innocents at the next school he came to, then you mindless masses would be blaming him for not stopping the dirt bag before he murdered! Really? Make up ur mind. Live like Americans and take care of business or give up and die.

    • Michael November 3, 2018, 4:48 am

      What part of he was fleeing and no danger to Mr. Dunn are we missing?

  • MadDogMike October 26, 2018, 9:32 am

    I think everyone’s missing the bigger picture. What happened in the store before the video? Did the thief threaten the store owner? If he did then, why wasn’t he shot at that moment? Did the store owner not have the guts to do it then, but became braver as the guy was leaving? Either way, because of the timing of the shoot, the store owner is in it deep.

    Back to the bigger picture…Why did the thief steal a hatchet of all things? Is it because he needed a weapon to commit other crimes and couldn’t get a hold of a gun? I don’t think he stole it to chop firewood. I don’t think he belonged to an axe/hatchet throwing club and was just getting ready for the weekend meet. Yes, another criminal falls to the old adage “Live by the sword, die by the sword” but it’s a shame the timing of the shoot will screw this store owner every which way possible. But then again the store owner should have responded, when and if he was actually threatened, at that moment, not later.

    This situation is why, if you choose to carry a weapon, that you practice defensive scenarios on a range and become cognizant of what to do, how to do it and when to do it. That way you don’t wind up like Mr. Store Owner.

    • AJ October 26, 2018, 5:00 pm

      No. The extended footage is like 17 mins long. At no point was the shop owner threatened by the thief. Dude grabbed the hatchet and tried to walk out.

    • Ted October 27, 2018, 2:15 pm

      Everything you said is true EXCEPT the video showed that the perp was LEAVING, trying to ESCAPE the grasp of the shop owner, and had his BACK to the owner, hand on the head of the ax. Remember? Doesn’t matter if a perp comes into your home or confronts you elsewhere–if he turns his back and is going away from you, you will be prosecuted for shooting him.

  • Larry Fillman October 26, 2018, 9:30 am

    I’m convinced criminals are emboldened to do more crimes than ever and law enforcement is overly scrutinized. Criminals are becoming fearless and property owners are at a higher risk than ever of becoming victims. I understand the store owners mindset and thieves need to grasp the “fact” that their actions can result in devastating consequences.
    My once safe city is now 80% higher than “all towns/cities in Texas for an individual to have a personal/property crime committed against then.” (Data USA)
    It’s a “given” that if you get out the front door without paying then it’s yours at the big box stores.
    Personally, thieves need to reassess their “strategy” if they know they have a better chance of being stopped by the owner than caught by law enforcement. I’m absolutely all in for cutting off fingers of thieves so they are easily identifiable as scum.
    It’s not the value of the item but the dumbass thief that was willing to steal an affordable item regardless of the consequences. I could care less for the criminal as his career is terminated but the owner now suffers because he used max force to eliminate a pustule of society.
    It’s hard enough to be a business owner and pay ever increasing taxes, fees, etc. (regardless of the economy)
    and then to give a “free pass” to a thief is virtually unconscionable.
    I completely understand the frustration and subsequent motivation of the store owner and I wish him well.

    • AJ October 27, 2018, 8:51 am

      I agree with a lot of your points made. And I would like to add another. Criminals are becoming more emboldened due to the fact that Democrats at the state level are turning prison time from a deterrent into an option.

      “Down on your luck? No money to pay bills? Sleeping on the street?
      Have no fear, just rob your local mom and pop shop and we will give you 3 hots and a cot for your extended stay in prison. You can rest assured that our staff is committed to providing you every right we can pencil whip through legislation. No need to fear capital punishment ever again. Enjoy amenities including but not limited to, 3 full hot meals per day, a bed to sleep on that must be sanitary by regulation, snacks from the commissary, prison industry work plans to make extra money, and so much more, all provided by the families of the people you took advantage of.”

      Fuck that shit, concrete slab, bread and water, buttsex for rapists and child molesters (after involuntary removal of sexual organs), and four plain white walls. Cruel and unusual punishment is when a child is kidnapped or molested, a person is raped, tortured, and killed, etc. The rights granted by the first 10 amendments are reserved for the law abiding.

  • John October 26, 2018, 9:07 am

    If he was a cop he would get a paid leave until the smoke clears.

    And we wouldn’t stop hearing about ‘officer safety’ from all the cop suckers

  • DAN III October 26, 2018, 6:28 am

    Seems to me the shopkeeper is far from a murderer. You snowflakes defending the thief should unlock the doors on your abode. Put out a “Welcome” sign and allow strangers to take from you what they want.

    The dead perp won’t be stealing and threatening harm to innocents again. Will he ?

    Kill them all.

    • AJ October 26, 2018, 9:43 am

      Ignorant asshole. The thief was a thief. I agree with that. But this guy is a piece of shit. It was a bad shoot. And he shouldn’t have even had a gun in the first place. He accidentally shot a guy when he was 19. You don’t “accidentally” shoot anyone, period. He was negligent and tried to take advantage of self defense laws plain and simple.

      That last statement was awesome by the way. It proves for a fact that mentally unstable people shouldn’t have access to firearms.

      People like you are the reason for high risk protection orders, congrats.

  • Tim Spalding October 26, 2018, 5:47 am

    Well, there goes another army/navy store…

  • Dave October 26, 2018, 3:25 am

    I’m pro gun, but this is what ‘trigger happy’ does to people. They let the gun do their thinking for them. And this is a sad case, one guy’s dead, the other guy might as well be dead. Life in Prison is worse than death!

    • Andy Buckmichael October 26, 2018, 6:58 am

      When I hear “trigger Happy” I think cop.

  • good October 23, 2018, 9:04 am

    good

  • Aaron R Ping October 23, 2018, 8:39 am

    As someone who has spent the past 23 years either catching shoplifters or managing those who do the catching, I’ll tell you one of the first things I always teach is there’s nothing in any store I’ve worked in worth getting hurt or killed over. If you know the person has a weapon let them go. A 17 dollar hachet isn’t even worth the stop, by time you do the paperwork you’ve spent more in payroll then the item is worth.

    • Cyrus October 26, 2018, 7:39 am

      I am a firm believer of Stand your Ground but this is well outside of that! I fully agree with Aaron’s comment. No matter what happened inside the store prior to the videotape we saw, he was on his way out the door with the stolen hatchet, his back turned to the store owner, and of no threat whatsoever. He should have just let him go and called the police. Now at best he will have to spend an ass-load of money defending himself –

  • Steven October 22, 2018, 8:22 pm

    The owner was wrong to shoot the shoplifter. The shoplifter did not present a threat to him, was trying to leave. This is stone cold murder. I am glad to see him arrested. Having a CCP is not a license to murder someone.

    • DAN III October 26, 2018, 6:31 am

      Stevie,

      Open your doors and invite folks to take what they want from your home. Why do you lock the doors and windows to your home ?

      • AJ October 26, 2018, 9:45 am

        Locks and windows are a deterrent moron. If a guy really wants to get in his intent isn’t just stealing shit. Then it’s justified. Take that rhetoric elsewhere. You “opening” the door to liberals calling all of us mentally defective. When in reality it’s just an ignorant few.

      • Sharp October 26, 2018, 9:57 am

        Steve, if you keep thinking that a shoplifter who doesn’t represent threat give you the right to take his life way, you soon will end in legal trouble and/or in jail like the one on the news. I don’t condone shoplifters, but some of them are not murderers, just mere fulls to try to get other belongings on the easy way. And sometimes for miserable reasons you cannot understand.

        But if a shoplifter or not represents a life threat to you and/or others, then there is no hesitation to defend yourself at any cost. But this news is not that case. Having a lisence to carry comes with a lot of legal responsibilities more than privileges and it is a duty to understand its limitations.

      • Chukk October 27, 2018, 12:19 am

        Are ya’ll kidding me? This guy just wanted to put someone down…what a AWFUL example of what “armed law abiding citizens ” is. To the folks saying it’s a good shoot…put your teenager in the thief’s shoes…then will your opinion be the same? I highly doubt it. WAKE UP!!!

      • Scotty Gunn October 27, 2018, 9:51 pm

        How much is a person’s life worth? $17? That is what the court asks. You can not use deadly force for protection of property, just for protection of life.

  • Jaque October 22, 2018, 6:23 pm

    At what point did the shoplifter go from being a simple escaping thief to using the stolen hatchet as a weapon against the store owner ?
    And at what point in the event timeline did the store owner raise his gun and fire at the thief ?

  • Chris October 22, 2018, 5:11 pm

    It doesn’t matter what transpired off the video. If he was fearful for his life for events that happened before what was being shown in the video he would have shot him prior in self defense. If that person was stealing a hatchet that is still no cause to kill the man and in the video the accused shoplifter is trying to get away, is not swinging the hatchet at him or swinging anything at him and is just trying to leave. He was not a threat of grave bodily harm or death. If this guy gets off it will be a crime.

    • DAN III October 26, 2018, 6:37 am

      Chris,

      Why are you defending the thief ? Perhaps the storekeeper should have used the stolen hatchet to lop off the bad guys hand ? Just like the Saudis do when a thief is captured.

      Most likely if some “innocent” guy decided to take his way with your wife, sister, daughter or girlfriend, the “good guy” would be within his rights to take what he wants. Correct ?

      • AJ October 26, 2018, 9:49 am

        He is not defending the thief, no one here is. They are all literally saying this shouldn’t have been handled by a trigger happy moron. He had a description, he could’ve got a vehicle description, and the guy’s father was still in the damn store. The authorities could’ve handled this situation with discretion. Instead we got ourselves a poster child for Democrats to use as to why concealed carry is flawed and people try to use it as a license to kill.

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