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

Lakeland police released surveillance video Monday showing a controversial confrontation between a suspected shoplifter and a city commissioner at his store.

So far, Lakeland City Commissioner Michael Dunn, who owns the Vets Army Navy Surplus store, has not been charged.

The video shows Cristobal Lopez allegedly shoplifting what investigators said was a hatchet. Moments later, the video shows a confrontation between Lopez and Dunn, and Dunn ends up shooting and killing Lopez as he tries to leave.

Dunn’s attorney said the commissioner wanted to protect himself from Lopez. But defense attorney Anthony Rickman -- who's not connected to the case -- said he doesn’t believe it is a self-defense case, even though the commissioner’s attorney said Dunn feared for his life. 

"If they come at you with a hatchet, you can shoot that person if you are in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury or death. And what we see now is after the hatchet comes out," said Rickman.

Rickman watched the video from October 3 to see what legal ramifications could it could bring. He said something changes in the “Stand Your Ground” or self-defense argument during the video.

"We see now the victim walking out the door and Dunn grabbing him and reengaging him," said Rickman. "At that point in time, the argument can be made that the imminent threat is gone."

It isn't clear what happened to the hatchet moments before Lopez is shot, but Rickman says he doesn't see Lopez swing a weapon moments before he is shot.

"This individual, the victim, is not turning around to fight Dunn," said Rickman.

In July, a Polk County store worker shot and killed an alleged thief, and Rickman watched that video too.

"In this situation, we see a theft. We see the individual getting in their vehicle, pulling away and he is shot as he is pulling away," said Rickman. "With both of those cases, we see a person of authority over a store, taking matters into his own hands and shooting at somebody."

In the Polk summer shooting, the clerk was charged with murder. Rickman said he could see Dunn facing a manslaughter or murder charge based on what he saw in the video Monday.

"I would be shocked if they don't charge him. When you look at that video and see that the person is trying to get away from him, you don't see a struggle," said Rickman.

Rickman said police officers will often take their time in cases with a potential self-defense argument to make sure they have all the evidence before potentially charging someone.

The State Attorney’s Office said the investigation should be wrapped up by the end of the week, and that is when they will announce whether Dunn could be charged.