Former Lakeland City Commissioner reaches plea deal in shooting death
Michael Dunn was set to stand trial this week in the Oct. 2018 death of Cristobal Lopez, who was attempting to steal a hatchet from Dunn's military surplus store in Lakeland.
Former Lakeland City Commissioner Michael Dunn has pleaded guilty in the shooting death of a man who tried to shoplift from his store.
Dunn was set to stand trial this week in the Oct. 2018 death of Cristobal Lopez, who was attempting to steal a hatchet from Dunn's military surplus store, Vets Army & Navy Surplus near downtown Lakeland.
WFLA reports Dunn pleaded guilty Friday to manslaughter with a firearm. He had been originally indicted for second degree murder.
Surveillance video showed Dunn confronting Lopez, who appeared to be trying to flee the store when Dunn shot him.
He had previously tried to get the case dismissed, with his attorneys attempting to argue that Florida's "stand your ground" law applied. However, a judge and an appellate court denied the motion to dismiss.
Dunn's attorneys were planning to argue he acted in self-defense, but Dunn decided to take a plea deal instead.
“Self defense is always tough to prove. The video both helped and hurt,” his defense attorney Mark O’Mara told reporters after the hearing.
“This guilty plea brings closure to the family of the victim, avoids many years of lengthy and costly appeals, and spares the family from enduring the emotional stress of a jury trial,” State Attorney Brian Haas said in a statement.
Dunn, who stepped down as a commissioner a few days after he was indicted in Oct. 2018, will be sentenced on May 23. He could receive up to 17 1/2 years in prison. He is out on bond until sentencing.