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Lakeland Commissioner Michael Dunn fatally shoots alleged shoplifter, police say

Investigators say Lakeland commissioner Michael Dunn fired the deadly shot after he claims a man attempted to steal a hatchet from his Vets Army & Navy military surplus store.

Lakeland City Commissioner Michael Dunn shot and killed a man who was trying to steal a hatchet from a military surplus store he owns in Lakeland, according to police.

It happened 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at Vets Army & Navy Surplus on North Florida Avenue. Police said when they arrived, they found Cristobal Lopez, 50, at the store's entrance with gunshot wounds. He was declared dead shortly afterward.

Witnesses say Lopez entered the store with his father. As his father was making a purchase, Lopez reportedly was seen by Dunn taking and concealing a hatchet. Dunn asked Lopez if he was going to pay for the hatchet, and a confrontation ensued.

Dunn fired a weapon at Lopez, who still had the hatchet, police said.

Aside from Lopez's father and Dunn, there were two store employees were in the store when the shooting happened.

Nobody else was hurt.

Dunn was not hurt. At his home Wednesday evening, Dunn's wife said they had 'no comment' at this time.

It's unclear if Dunn will face charges.

Joan Peterson, who says she's a longtime friend of Dunn's, stopped by the store Wednesday night worried that something had happened to him.

"I was concerned and I know he’s very cautious about protecting his store," she said. “For him to have to act like he did, I’m sure he was either approached or something happened where he was either protecting himself or his employees because Michael is not a mean person.”

The business has been in Lakeland since 1958. It sells firearms, military surplus and public safety supplies.

In 2016, following a the theft of dozens of guns from a nearby store, Dunn showed 10News reporter Grady Trimble the extra security precautions he takes at his store.

“The easier you make it for somebody to steal it from you, then as proven somebody out there will steal it,” Dunn said back then.

It's unclear how Lopez was able to get ahold of the hatchet in question.

Police are cooperating with the State Attorney's Office and the medical examiner's office.

Kevin Cook, director of communications for the City of Lakeland, released the below statement.

There aren’t a lot of details that have been shared outside of what has been published with the media. What we do know is the Lakeland Police Department is working closely with our partners at the State Attorney’s Office and Medical Examiner’s office, who are conducting a parallel investigation of this incident. The three independent investigations creates a (sic) checks and balances. A multiple agency review involving a homicide is standard operating procedure and we are confident in decisions made by these professional agencies.

10News reporter Josh Sidorowicz contributed to this report.

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