Ismael Lopez autopsy complete after delays in state lab

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — Nearly a year after a Southaven man was shot to death by police, his autopsy is complete.

But District Attorney John Champion said Thursday there was no way he was releasing the report to the public, saying it is part of his ongoing investigation.

Ismael Lopez was shot to death through the door of his home July 23 when officers, who had been dispatched to serve a warrant at a house across the street, were sent to the wrong address.

Police have said Lopez cracked the door and had a weapon, but his attorneys deny that. Lopez had no warrants.

The shooting sparked protest against Southaven Police by members of the Latino community.

The Lopez family's attorneys said they don't have a copy of the report, either, but are working to get it.

The autopsy report has been delayed due to a backlog in cases, because the Mississippi Medical Examiner’s lab only has two workers to do 1,400 cases a year.

Mississippi Forensic Lab Director Sam Howell said Thursday they had been waiting for the final report from Dr. Lisa Funte, who did the autopsy on the body when it came in last July.

Funte moved to Maine and still has about 100 Mississippi cases pending.

Howell said she was back in Mississippi this past Monday and she finished the Lopez autopsy.

"We have Dr. Funte under contract," Howell said. "She is doing her best between her full-time job now and to complete the reports she had remaining that are outstanding. She is working with us."

Howell said his office is working to address the backlog in cases, and Funte will send in other reports as she finishes them.

"Unfortunately people get frustrated with us," Howell said. "People get frustrated, law enforcement get frustrated, the courts get frustrated, the district attorneys get frustrated ... but when you don't have the resources to perform or to respond to them ... you just do the best you can," he said.

"It's in some instances very heartbreaking. I take a lot of calls from families. Not only law enforcement and the courts but from families needing answers, death certificates. I really feel bad."