Lakeland commissioner fatally shoots man in Army-Navy store that he owns
Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2018 9:48 am
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Lakeland City Commissioner Michael Dunn fatally shot a customer who attempted to steal a hatchet on Oct. 3, 2018, from the Vets Army Navy Surplus store, 819 N Florida Ave., which he owns.
Daniel Figueroa IV
Times staff writer
Published: October 4, 2018Updated: October 4, 2018 at 09:25 AM
A Lakeland City Commissioner fatally shot a customer who attempted to steal a hatchet from an Army-Navy surplus store that he owns on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Lakeland Police Department.
Police responded to the shooting around 2:30 p.m. at the Vets Army Navy Surplus store, 819 N Florida Ave.
"There was some type of a disturbance inside the store that led to this shooting," Gary Gross, Lakeland Police spokesman, told reporters Wednesday. "There were three employees inside the store. The updated information that we have now, is that one of those employees, Michael Dunn, a commissioner with the city of Lakeland, was involved in the shooting."
Police say Dunn, who has been a Lakeland City Commissioner since January, confronted 50-year-old Cristobal Lopez at the store while Lopez’s father was making a purchase.
According to police and witnesses, Dunn saw Lopez take and conceal a hatchet before trying to leave the store while his father was at the counter.
The men got into a confrontation after Dunn stopped Lopez and asked him if he was going to purchase the hatchet, police say.
Police say Dunn shot Lopez, who still had the hatchet. Gross said Lopez was found near the store’s entrance and pronounced dead shortly after paramedics arrived.
Lopez’s father and two store employees were interviewed on the scene.
Gross said police are also looking to review any surveillance footage of the incident.
The State Attorney’s Office is investigating the shooting, and an autopsy will be performed.
Dunn, an adamant supporter of gun ownership, hosted a July rally at his store to counter a nearby March for our Lives rally on the same day. March for our Lives is an advocacy group formed by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students seeking stricter gun-control laws in the wake of a deadly February shooting at the Parkland school.
Dunn, a graduate of the Citizens Police Academy, has worked at the store most of his adult life.
The shooting is not Dunn’s first.
According to the Ledger of Lakeland, Dunn, a 1989 graduate of Lakeland High School, accidentally shot a man when he was 19. The Ledger first reported the incident during Dunn’s unsuccesful bid for a seat on the Polk County Commission in 2000. Reports said Dunn was pretending to draw a 9mm handgun, thinking it was unloaded, when it went off. The bullet went through the front door of his home, down an alley and through the driver’s seat of a Nissan Sentra driven by Robert Hilton.
Hilton was shot in the elbow and police at the time ruled the shooting accidental. Dunn was not charged.
Dunn’s December 2017 runoff victory for Lakeland Commissioner was his fourth attempt at public office. He ran for a county seat in 2000, then for City Commission in 2005 and 2009. His December victory followed a four-way general election that saw him garner 46 percent of the vote, while opponent Larry Durrence received 37 percent. Since neither man received more than 50 percent, a runoff was held in December, in which Dunn won with 54 percent of the vote.
This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.
Daniel Figueroa IV can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @danuscripts.