SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — The Mississippi State Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death of a Southaven man killed by police as a homicide after he was shot once in the back of the head.
WREG reviewed the autopsy report this past week which added that the bullet that killed Ismael Lopez had become lodged in his brain.
“Based on the case history, as known at this time, and examination findings, it is my opinion that the cause of death is a gunshot wound of the head. The manner of death is homicide,” the report read.
In June, District Attorney John Champion told WREG he had received the results of that autopsy but said there was no way he was releasing the report to the public, saying it was part of his ongoing investigation.
He also stated the two-page autopsy report he received was “very poorly written”.
Several weeks later, Champion announced that no criminal charges would be filed against the two Southaven Police officers involved in the shooting. He stated he sent a homicide charge against one of the officers to the grand jury but they chose not to return an indictment.
“From my perspective, the case is closed now at this point,” said Champion, who said he was informed of the grand jury’s decision last week.
Lopez was shot to death in his home July 23, 2017 when officers, who had been dispatched to serve a warrant for a man named Samuel Pearman at a house across the street, ended up at the wrong address.
Police have said Lopez cracked the door and pointed a rifle at officers when they arrived at the door of his home on Surry Lane. Lopez was in his living room, while his wife was in the bedroom advising him that police were outside, Champion said.
Police first shot a dog who ran out the door. They opened fire on Lopez when he did not lower the weapon, Champion said, but Lopez’s attorneys deny that.
The attorneys for the family of Ismael Lopez showed us pictures they say prove the door of Lopez’s home was closed when police fired their weapons.
“You can track the trace of the bullets. Three bullets went into that door and the door was shut when those bullets went into the door. My investigative team has concluded it was direct line. There were three bullets. There is no way the door was cracked open and someone was there,” says the family’s attorney, Murray Wells.
Lopez had no warrants.
The two officers involved in Lopez’s death have not been identified. Since the shooting, one officer has since resigned from the Southaven Police Department and the other officer is assigned to desk duty.
Champion said only one of the officers fired the weapon. Four shots were fired.
The Southaven Police Department released a statement in July saying:
Today’s announcement by DeSoto County District Attorney’s Office concluded the criminal investigation of Mr. Lopez’s death. This investigation has been conducted and reviewed by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, The DeSoto District Attorney and the F.B.I. This case has been reviewed in addition by the U.S. Department of Justice, which cleared the officers of any criminal actions.
The officer who fired at Mr. Lopez left the department to enter the private workforce, and the officer who fired at the dog is still currently on non-enforcement status, but is anticipated to return to full duty within the coming days.
The statement goes on to say that this is a tragic event and the department sends condolences to the Lopez family.
Pearman remained at large following the shooting, but U.S. Marshals took him into custody at a family member’s home. He was being held at the Tate County Jail until he was released on bond. He was facing domestic violence charges.