Recently national news networks picked up on a shooting in Lakeland Florida. It all happened in a Army and Navy surplus store that was owned by Michael Dunn. Dunn is also a city commissioner in Lakeland.
According to the news story 50 year old Christobal Lopez was with his father. As his father was paying for items he wanted to buy, Dunn noticed Lopez leaving the store with a hatchet that he had not paid for. When Dunn approached Lopez a confrontation ensued. Surveillance video shows the two men in a scuffle as Lopez continues to leave the store with the hatchet in his hand. Dunn then shoot Lopez once in the side and once in the back. Lopez died at the scene.
According to news reports the case was sent to the grand jury who indicted Dunn for 2nd degree murder. If Dunn is convicted he could be sentenced to life in prison.
Several questions come to mind when looking at this incident. First, was Dunn threatened by Lopez or was Lopez just trying to escape? Second, is the hatchet worth taking a human life? Three, Lopez’s father was still in the store. Could Dunn call the police, in reference to shop lifting, with information obtained from the father?
I’m not trying to play armchair quarterback. I’m merely attempting to to learn from this tragic incident. Those of us who carry a gun must realize that a great deal of responsibility goes along with the privilege. Incidents like this create more scrutiny for us who wish to protect ourselves. Unfortunately some law enforcement officers and prosecutors are not in favor of people being able to carry a gun for protection. When cases such as this arise, we must look at them to learn for our own benefit.
If Lopez was being threatening with the hatchet the shooting may have been warranted. If it is found that Lopez was trying to escape it is very possible that Dunn could be convicted.
The surveillance video may still leave some questions for a jury to sort out. But as in many cases today the shooter will most likely be prosecuted in the media instead of the court.
So what are the takeaways from incidents like this. First and foremost you must have a legitimate threat of bodily harm or death before lethal force can be legally used. If your life is threatened and you use your gun to defend yourself, you must be able to show you were in the right. If the perpetrator is moving away from you when you shoot, it may be difficult to prove you were in danger.
In the minutes following a stressful event such as this, it may not be the time to give your statement to law enforcement. Cooperation does not mean you have to talk right now. Tell the officer that you need to calm down before you talk to them. You may even want to talk to an attorney before giving a statement.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.