SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — The officers who fatally shot Ismael Lopez in his Southaven home in 2017 have reportedly been cleared of wrongdoing.
Attorney Murray Wells represented Claudia Linares, the wife of Ismael Lopez, in a $20 million lawsuit for the wrongful death of her 41-year-old husband. This week, after four days of deliberation in federal court in Oxford, a jury in has cleared the officers.
The decision means Lopez’s widow will receive no compensation for her husband’s death.
“The verdict was that the jurors did not believe that the use of force used by Officers [Zachary] Durden and [Samuel] Maze was excessive in light of all the facts that they considered,” attorney Murray Wells said.
Southaven Police officers shot Lopez on July 23, 2017. The officers had been dispatched to serve a warrant at a home in Lopez’s neighborhood and ended up at the wrong address. Wells has maintained that crucial mistakes led the officers to fatally shoot Lopez.
“There are a couple of huge factors at play. One was this unbelievable mistake of going to the wrong address and we felt it was just incompetent because they didn’t even take the time to look at the boxes,” Wells said. “They went to the wrong side of the road, so that started this.”
The officers claimed they saw a rifle barrel pointed through the door and started firing shots through the door. They shot Lopez while he was in his living room.
“Then those officers used tactical maneuvers to hide themselves as police officers,” Wells said. “They never announced that they were police and at the end of the day Ismael Lopez was shot through a door, in the back of the head.”
A year after the fatal shooting, the DeSoto County District Attorney’s Office announced that no criminal charges would be filed against the officers.
Lopez’s widow filed a lawsuit against the City of Southaven, the Southaven Police Chief, and the officers involved in the shooting, claiming that they violated Lopez’s civil rights.
The lawsuit disputed claims that Lopez pointed a rifle at officers, stating that his fingerprints and DNA were not found on a rifle recovered more than six feet away from his body.
The lawsuit also stated that Lopez was more than six feet away from the front door when he was shot in the back of the head.
The City of Southaven reportedly claimed that Lopez had no civil or constitutional rights because he was an undocumented immigrant. A U.S. District Court judge denied the claim, stating that Lopez was protected under the U.S. Constitution.
Wells says it’s uncertain what the future holds now for Linares.
“We look at whether or not we want to take this up or whether or not this closes a chapter of her life and she’s just able to move on,” Wells said.
Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite released a statement in response to the ruling.
“This was a tragic event and our sincerest condolences continue for the family and friends of Ismael Lopez. This verdict proves what we’ve believed to be correct since day one as our officers responded appropriately considering the circumstance of being threatened with deadly force. We’ve stood behind them during the last six years for this very reason and, for their sake, are glad this trial is over.”