Attorney for Ismael Lopez family says MBI report contradicts police statements
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The attorney for the family of Ismael Lopez has released findings from a report by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.
Lopez, 45, was shot and killed by a Southaven police officer in 2017. Officers went to the wrong house while serving a warrant for domestic violence and the encounter turned deadly.
Attorney Murray Wells says MBI’s findings contradict statements given by Southaven police officers. A judge ordered the district attorney to turn over the case files in December.
“I don’t think they want the story out,” Wells said. “I think when you look at the facts versus the statements I think it’s damning.”
For months Wells and Aaron Neglia, fellow attorney for Ismael Lopez’s family, waited for the district attorney to release the completed report from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.
A court order finally released those pages to Lopez’s attorney, who now plans to sue the city of Southaven and Officers Zachery Durden and Samuel Maze for their involvement in the shooting death of Lopez in 2017.
According to the MBI report, officers Samuel Maze and Zachary Durden arrived at Lopez’s mobile home by mistake. They were looking for 5878 Surrey Lane but went to 5881 Surrey Lane instead.
The report says mailboxes on the street were grouped together on a wooden pole at the edge of the road. Several mailboxes were lettered and labeled with street numbers.
According to the report, it was shortly after midnight when they arrived at the home. Lopez was in bed with his wife, Claudia Linares, when officers knocked on the door.
The report says police could hear footsteps heading toward the door, then the porch light went off, the door opened, a dog ran out and Lopez pointed a rifle out of the opened door.
Maze fired once at the dog and Durden fired multiple times at Lopez, who was shot as he ran from the door. Linares told MBI investigators through a translator that she ran to the living room after hearing gunshots and saw Lopez on the floor. She said she was taken outside and handcuffed.
A third officer, Sgt. Thomas Jones, was at the scene but didn’t fire his weapon. He told investigators he heard Durden ordered Lopez to drop the rifle several times before shots were fired.
“The bigger problem is the idea that law enforcement can go guns a blazing through a door, a closed door before they can assess what the real situation is chilling to me,” Wells said.
According to the MBI report, Maze said he and Durden checked the home for “additional threats,” cuffed Lopez, who was “breathing laboriously," and began trying to render aid until another officer arrived. Lopez died at the scene.
The autopsy revealed he died from a gunshot wound to the base of his skull. The bullet traveled back to front, left to right and upward.
When state investigators arrived at the crime scene, they saw Lopez lying in a prone position with his hands cuffed behind his back in the middle of the living room floor. A rifle was positioned on the couch.
The MBI report includes 267 photographs from the crime scene.
A grand jury declined to indict the officers, who investigators say never identified themselves. The family requested a federal civil rights investigation but the U.S. Department of Justicwe declined to take action because federal investigators believed the case was unwinnable.
“Ismael Lopez had no way of knowing that law enforcement was on his property who shouldn't have been there in the first time,” Wells said.
Wells pointed to bullet holes found in the door to bolster his claim that Lopez was shot through the door.
MBI's report was inconclusive about whether Lopez's door was open or closed when the fatal shot was fired.
We reached out to DA John Champion and Southaven PD for comment. Both declined our request for comment.
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