LAKELAND, Fla. – Michael Dunn walked right past reporters, without a word, as he was booked into the Polk County jail Friday night. The business owner and Lakeland city commissioner is now an accused murderer.
“The fact that he was a commissioner really did not have an impact on anything that we did,” State Attorney Brian Haas said.
At a Saturday morning court appearance, no bond was set for Dunn.
The investigation took more than two weeks and ended in a second-degree murder charge against Dunn. A key piece of evidence in the case is surveillance video from inside Dunn's gun store. Cameras show him shooting and killing Christobal Lopez, a man police say tried to steal a hatchet from the store on October 3.
In newly-released documents, the investigating officer says the victim never made any threats and was holding the blade of the hatchet in his palm. Police say Dunn admitted to shooting the man twice because he was stealing the hatchet.
Haas said Dunn is not protected under Florida's "stand your ground" law.
“I don't make the law,” Haas explained. “I follow it, and that's what we were bound to do.”
Meanwhile, Dunn's attorney, Rusty Franklin, visited him behind bars Friday night.
“It's immensely heart-wrenching and it's immensely emotional,” Franklin said.
Franklin wouldn't say whether he'll use "stand your ground" as a defense, but said he will “vigorously assert Mr. Dunn’s lawful right of self-defense.”
“This situation was commenced and started, not by Michael Dunn,” Franklin added. “Someone made a choice to shoplift.”
Now, the once-outspoken gun rights advocate is spending his first night in jail and the long court process is only just beginning.
Commissioner Dunn is being held without bond and will make his first appearance in court first thing Saturday morning.
It's unclear what's going to happen to his commission seat. That decision could be left up to his fellow commissioners or the governor, who has the power to suspend a public official who breaks the law.
The arrest affidavit
According to the arrest affidavit, Lopez and his father were in Vets Army & Navy Surplus on North Florida Avenue. Surveillance video showed Lopez taking a hatchet from a display rack and hiding it in his pants and under his shirt. Dunn saw this.
Video also showed Dunn putting a gun in the waistband of his pants and walking to the front of the store.
As Lopez and his father were leaving the store, Dunn confronted Lopez and asked him about paying for the hatchet. The hatchet then fell out of Lopez's pants.
Lopez picked up the hatchet and told Dunn, "I will pay! I will pay!" as he walked back to the counter, according to the affidavit. Lopez stood at the counter for a moment before attempting to leave again.
Video then showed Dunn shove Lopez and point his gun. Lopez continued to try to leave the store. Dunn is then seen grabbing Lopez's shirt and trying to pull him back in the store while holding his firearm in a "low ready" position.
The blade of the hatchet was in Lopez's hand, the affidavit said.
When Dunn lost hold of the shirt, he fired twice, striking Lopez in the left side of the torso and in the middle of his back, the affidavit said.
Lopez died at the scene.
The affidavit said Lopez made no threatening moves, and witnesses said he made no verbal threats.
Dunn told detectives he was in fear, but when he was asked what would have happened if he had let go of Lopez, he replied, "It might be fair to say that if I just stepped back and let someone come in and take what they want, that there would be no issue!"
Dunn did not attempt to aid Lopez, the affidavit said.
What is second-degree murder?
Second-degree murder usually involves a heat of the moment impulse decision with no planning. Dunn wasn’t planning to kill the shoplifter when that day began.
The prove second-degree murder, a prosecutor must show the defendant acted with a ‘depraved mind’ without regard to human life.
Killings that lead to second-degree murder charges are typically done impulsively without premeditation, but with ‘malice aforethought.’
It could also be a killing that resulted from an act intended to cause serious bodily harm or from an act that demonstrated depraved indifference for human life.
In Florida, a person convicted of second-degree murder could get up to life in prison or life on probation, along with a fine of up to $10,000. When a weapon is involved, as was in this case, there’s a mandatory sentence of 25 years in prison if convicted.
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