Southaven Police chief retires as Lopez family attorney plans to file lawsuit

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — Colleagues and community members reflected on the announced retirement of Southaven Police Chief Steve Pirtle after 40 years of law enforcement service, including three years as chief.

In an email to WREG he says, “I put my heart and soul into trying to make Southaven a premier department and safest place to live... After much prayer, this season is coming to an end for me, and I look forward to now having the time to experience other opportunities..."

District Attorney John Champion called Pirtle a calm and thoughtful leader who’s made his mark with elite training and technology for his police force.

"I've worked with Pirtle for 26 years. The databases, the equipment, things like that help us solve crimes nowadays," he said.

But the attorney for the family of Ismael Lopez disagreed.

In 2017, Southaven Police were supposed to be serving a warrant on a domestic violence suspect when they went to the wrong home and shot and killed the husband and father.

"Any training that makes officers think twice before you go with a gun to the wrong house, we want that changed," Attorney Murray Wells said.

Wells said Chief Pirtle never personally contacted his clients to apologize or explain.

"There needs to be some responsibility," he said. "It’s probably got to be hard for people working for him to work under these circumstances, and there being such a cloud cast over."

Wells said the Lopez family planned to file a lawsuit in the next two weeks.

And then there’s the case of video showing a man being detained and “hog-tied” by Southaven officers in 2015. The trial in that lawsuit begins June 17.

Pirtle tells us neither case had anything to do with his retirement. The 59-year-old said he looked forward to spending more time with family.

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