Surveillance video of the case of a Lakeland city commissioner confronting an alleged shoplifter inside an Army Navy Surplus store before fatally shooting him has finally emerged.
Lakeland police have released the said video following more than a week of uncertainties and speculations since details of the case of the shooting have mainly come from police accounts.
The video now gives the public a concrete and direct view of the shooting. It will also stand as a highly important piece of evidence that investigators are using to determine whether City Commissioner Michael Dunn, 47, should face charges or not for the killing of 50-year-old Christobal Lopez in the October 3 incident.
The video taken from inside Vets Army Navy Surplus store shows Dunn holding a gun in his right hand as Lopez was seen approaching the door. Dunn then pushes Lopez using his left arm, then Lopez makes another attempt to go to the door.
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Dunn has earlier claimed that he was in fear of his life prompting him to fire shots at Lopez. Two lawyers who have reviewed the surveillance footage believe, however, that what they saw in the video may contradict what has been claimed by Dunn.
The video, however, also shows Dunn grabbing Lopez’s shoulder from behind with his left hand while Lopez manages to get out the door. Dunn momentarily loses his hold on Lopez but before the alleged shoplifter totally gets away, the commissioner is able to grab a fistful of Lopez’s shirt.
Lopez next raises his left arm to try to break free, and then Dunn appears to fire the shots.
Lopez could be seen falling to the pavement just outside the door.
When Dunn fires his shots, Lopez is seen in the video holding an object in the same right hand he used to open the door. It is still not clear if the object he was seen holding is the hatchet that he is suspected of shoplifting.
Legal experts who’ve seen the video say that while Dunn has the state’s Stand Your Ground law on his favor, the video shows that his life may not have been in danger, after all. They say the circumstances of him having control over Lopez may not justify the shooting.
The Florida law Stand Your Ground allows people to use deadly force if they’re facing “imminent death or great bodily harm.”
Dunn was shopping for hats with his father before the fatal shooting. If arrested, Dunn could be suspended from office by the Florida governor. It would be a pity since he has only a little more than six months left on his term.
State prosecutors expect to conclude their probe by the end of next week.