Lawyer for Lakeland commissioner who shot store patron says client did nothing wrong

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The attorney for the Lakeland city commissioner who shot a man to death Wednesday says his client did nothing wrong.

Commissioner Michael Dunn owns Vets Army & Navy Surplus on South Florida Avenue. He shot Cristobal Lopez in what police say was a shoplifting incident.

When asked if Dunn feared for his life, his defense attorney Rusty Franklin responded, “Of course.”

Lopez, a felon, had been staying with his father at a homeless shelter called Talbot House Ministries, which is nearby the store. 

Mid-afternoon on Wednesday, Lopez and his father walked over to the store.

Franklin says Lopez put a hatchet down his pants to try and steal it but when the hatchet fell out, Dunn confronted Lopez and tried to detain him.

Franklin says Lopez refused and picked the hatchet up.

He says Dunn fired two shots.

“He was given that chance, and made a choice not to accept responsibility and wait for law enforcement to come, to have an investigation, so Michael had to do things under split seconds to protect himself, his business and his community,” said Franklin.

Along with Lopez and his father, two of Dunn’s employees were in the store when the shooting occurred.

Lopez's autopsy was underway on Thursday.

The State Attorney’s Office is expected to decide whether to charge Dunn within the next few weeks.