‘My brother didn’t need to be killed like some animal,’ says sister of man shot by Lakeland commissioner

Published October 5 2018
Updated October 20 2018

LAKELAND — The man who was shot to death Wednesday by a Lakeland city commissioner had a history of arrests, but no convictions for violent crimes.

It remained undetermined whether Commissioner Michael Dunn would face criminal charges in the death of Christobal Lopez, 50.

"He was not a violent person," Lopez’s sister, Veronica Lopez, said Friday. "My brother didn’t need to be killed like some animal."

On Wednesday afternoon, according to police, the man tried to pocket a hatchet inside the Vets Army Navy Surplus store in Lakeland. Dunn, a co-owner of the business, confronted him, asking if he was going to pay for the item.

Exactly what happened next is unclear. But when Lakeland police officers arrived about 2:30 p.m., Lopez lay dead in the parking lot. Dunn had shot him, police said.

Dunn was not arrested. He and an attorney representing him did not respond to messages left for comment.

Veronica Lopez said police have told her family that Dunn could be charged.

But Lakeland police spokesman Gary Gross reiterated that investigators have not made any decisions about criminal charges.

"They’re still very much in the middle of this investigation," he said.

"The State Attorney’s Office is doing a parallel investigation. They’re interviewing the same people we’re interviewing."

State records show Christobal Lopez had accumulated more than 25 arrests over three decades on charges that included cocaine possession, shoplifting, and disorderly conduct.

Police described Lopez as a transient. His most recent address was a small house in the rural community of Wauchula, in Hardee County.

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Christobal Lopez’s first name. Police initially provided an incorrect spelling.

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