LAKELAND (FOX 13) - Police say City Commissioner Michael Dunn shot and killed a person at the business he owns on North Florida Avenue in Lakeland.
The shooting happened around 2:30 Wednesday afternoon at the Vet's Army Navy Surplus Store.
When they arrived at the scene, police say they found 50-year-old Cristobal Lopez at the entrance of the store with gunshot wounds.
Lopez was declared dead by emergency medical professionals shortly after.
There were three employees inside the store at the time of the shooting.
According to statements given to police, Lopez came into the store with his father, who was making a purchase. During that time, Dunn says he witnessed Lopez take a hatchet and then trying to leave the store without paying for it.
Dunn reportedly stopped Lopez and asked if he would pay for the item.
Police say a "confrontation ensued" and "Dunn then fired his weapon, striking Lopez who was still in possession of the hatchet."
Police interviewed Lopez's father and two store employees about the incident.
A criminal investigation into the incident is being conducted in partnership with the State Attorney’s Office and the medical examiner.
Keisha Baker was across the street when the shot was fired.
“We heard the gunshots. We just thought it was fireworks and it was like ‘pow pow,’” Baker recalls.
She walked across the road to see where it came from.
“That's when we noticed that man lying on the ground,” she said.
Angelice Smith’s salon is two doors down from the army surplus store. She said if Michael Dunn had to shoot, he wouldn’t have made the decision lightly.
“He's a really nice guy. I've known him for like 6, 7 years,” she said. “I know it would have to be a tough situation, a tough decision to make, if he ended up injuring somebody because I don't think that's in his nature.”
Neighbors who spent the afternoon watching crime scene investigators were sad to see it so close to home.
“I pray for both sides of the family, the city commissioner. Also, someone lost a child, also someone lost a father, lost a son, someone lost a dad,” Smith said.