SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — The family of Ismael Lopez, the man that was shot and killed by police nearly two years ago, has filed a lawsuit against the city of Southaven, the police chief and the two officers involved in his death.
The family is seeking $8 million in actual and compensatory damages, $12 million for punitive damages and $25,000 for funeral costs.
In July 2017, Southaven officers were sent to Surrey Lane to look for a suspect wanted for an aggravated assault in Tate County. Officers mistakenly went to the wrong home. Lopez reportedly opened the door to find two officers there and tried to run.
Reports indicate that the officers shot through the door, striking and killing Lopez.
Officers told investigators they saw a rifle barrel pointed through the open door. At that point, a dog charged out of the house, and Officer Samuel Maze shot at it. Officer Zachary Durden began yelling for the person inside to drop the weapon, then fired several shots through the door.
According to the lawsuit, Lopez didn't have a gun in his possession and didn't pose an immediate threat to the officers.
"The City of Southaven law enforcement officers utilized excessive force in with respect to Ismael Lopez and acted in deliberate indifference to his health and welfare by escalating the situation in an unnecessary fashion," attorneys said.
They also claimed that the department has a history when it comes to excessive force.
"Defendants City of Southaven and Chief Pirtle have allowed police officers to engage in a pattern of conduct that violates the civil rights of persons residing in the City for years leading up to the death of Ismael Lopez by failing to enforce policies and procedures and by ratifying the unconstitutional conduct of officers by not punishing them and instead allowing them to continue serving as law enforcement officers."
"Municipal policymakers are aware of, condone and facilitate by their inaction, a “code of silence” in the Southaven Police Department, by which officers fail to report misconduct committed by other officers, such as the misconduct in this case."
Attorneys are asking for a jury to hear the case.
Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite released a statement on the lawsuit Thursday afternoon, saying the city's officers had been cleared by investigations.
"Last year, a Desoto County Grand Jury reviewed all facts of this incident and made a decision to not indict any of our Southaven Police Officers. In addition, this matter was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice, which also cleared the City of Southaven Police Officers. We are ready to vigorously defend our officers and City in a court of law in this matter," the statement read.
"Since we will try this case in a courtroom and not the media, I advise all that value the truth to be cautious of the partial facts and misinformation that has been circulated by some since this event occurred."