Relatives of man shot, killed when police enter wrong house say they’ll sue

Published 10:19 pm Friday, February 8, 2019

A family plans to sue after Mississippi police went to the wrong house and ended up killing a man, lawyers said Thursday, and they suggested that a state investigative report they obtained in court would bolster their case.

Attorneys for Ismael Lopez’s relatives said they’ll sue the city of Southaven and two officers who fired shots, news outlets reported. Lopez was shot inside his home on July 23, 2017, as officers were trying to locate a suspect who lived across the street.

District Attorney John Champion said in July that grand jurors declined to indict anyone, saying at least one officer saw Lopez sticking a rifle out the door.

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State investigators concluded the door was slightly ajar when one bullet passed through, and was open a little wider when another bullet went through.

“It is unknown if the door was open or closed when the projectile passed through it and struck the victim in the base of his skull,” the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation report says.

Lawyers for the Lopez family acknowledge that a .22-caliber rifle was found near the door, but they dispute that the mechanic pointed it, saying his body was found some distance away inside the mobile home.

“I have very serious questions about whether this is an accidental shooting and a cover-up, and that the gun was conveniently used as part of cover-up to explain why a relatively young officer went blazing through a closed door,” attorney Murray Wells said.

Wells suggested that one Southaven officer heard another shoot at Lopez’s dog, prompting the first officer to shoot into the house through the front door, fatally wounding Lopez.

But Tony Farese, a lawyer for officers Samuel Maze and Zachary Durden, said Lopez was to blame because officers saw him point the rifle through a partly opened door. The report shows investigators concluded Maze fired at a pit bull that ran out the front door, while Durden fired at the door, including the bullet that went through the door and struck Lopez in the back of the head, fatally wounding him.

“Bottom line is, it’s a justified shooting,” Farese said. “DA’s looked at it. FBI’s looked at it. When people knock at your door and you point a gun at uniformed police officers — that’s not the way I go to the door.”