He Said He Feared for His Life. Tape Makes It a 'Tough Call'

Legal experts wrangle with whether store co-owner had 'stand your ground' rights in fatal Fla. shooting
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 16, 2018 9:50 AM CDT

The tapes are out from Florida police, and now the world can see more of the story behind the fatal shooting of Christobal Lopez. The 50-year-old was killed Oct. 3 in a Vets Army Navy Surplus Store in Lakeland while there with his father—both transients, police say, per the New York Times—and the person who shot him with a Glock handgun, store co-owner and City Commissioner Michael Dunn, is relying on the state's "stand your ground" law in explaining why he shot Lopez. Dunn's attorney has claimed Lopez was trying to shoplift a hatchet, and when Dunn, 47, confronted Lopez, who was said to still be holding the hatchet, Dunn feared he'd be hurt or even killed, per the Tampa Bay Times. But surveillance video of the shooting released by authorities on Monday is making it more of a "tough call," an attorney not involved with the case says.

"It appears in the video that all the force is being used by the commissioner," another defense attorney adds. In one clip (shown here, but be warned: It's graphic), Dunn can be seen grabbing the shirt sleeve on Lopez's left arm as Lopez tries to leave the store, and Lopez's arm lifts up during an apparent attempt to break free. That's when Dunn fires. No one is seen attempting to give Lopez first aid in the video, which goes on for about three more minutes in a longer, police-released version. Although the video has caused some legal experts to wonder if the shooting was justified, another tells the Ledger that at the very least Dunn may be able to argue self-defense. "If Lopez tried to brush away the gun with his hand, he may have invited deadly force," a defense lawyer says. No charges have yet been filed. (A "justifiable" shooting by an Uber driver.)

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