Lakeland commissioner arrested for shooting shoplifting suspect

- More than two weeks later, a Lakeland City Commissioner has been charged in the shooting death of a suspected shoplifter who was trying to flee his store.

Commissioner Michael Dunn has been charged with second-degree murder after he shot and killed 50-year-old Cristobal Lopez Wednesday, October 3 at the Vet’s Army Navy Surplus Store.  He was taken into custody Friday evening to be held without bond.

Lakeland police investigated the shooting for nine days before turning the case over to the State Attorney’s Office.  A grand jury Indicted Dunn today on a charge of second-degree murder.

“I have determined that this case and the actions of Mr. Dunn fall outside of Stand Your Ground," State Attorney Brian Haas announced Friday evening, referencing the state's controversial law allowing the use of deadly force in some situations.

Dunn maintains Lopez was carrying a hatchet -- which he was trying to steal from Dunn’s store -- at the time of the shooting.  

Surveillance video released October 15 shows the confrontation and is being called a key piece of evidence in the decision to charge Dunn.

RELATED: Attorney: Would be 'shocked' if store owner not charged in shooting

The arrest affidavit obtained by FOX 13 describes what happened leading up to the shooting. 

Lakeland police say Lopez was seen by Dunn removing the hatchet from a display rack inside the store and concealing it in the front of his pants. Dunn is seen on video concealing his gun in his waistband, police say, and then confronting the Lopez. 

A witness identified as Lopez' father told police that Lopez said, "I will pay! I will pay!" and said Lopez went to the cash register, then tried to quickly leave the store with the hatchet. 

Police say that's when the deadly confrontation captured on surveillance video occurred. "At no time did the victim appear to have made any threatening movements toward the suspect," the affidavit said.

Through their attorney, the Lopez family thanked the State Attorney's Office.  

“There is no way to undo the life-shattering harm that Mr. Dunn caused, but we are pleased that the State Attorney’s Office is moving forward with criminal charges for such an unnecessary and egregious use of deadly force," the statement read, in part.  "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.”

There had been an overwhelming community response to the shooting, with hundreds of comments on the Lakeland Police Department's Facebook page – most from people who said Dunn should be charged.

Dunn and other commissioners said they have also received at least one death threat, via email, in relation to the incident.  Lakeland police are investigating the threat, but say the person who wrote it may be difficult to find.

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