One officer fired shots at the pit bull that hurtled out of the mobile home in Southaven, Miss., police said. The other officer fired at the person pointing a gun from behind the cracked front door.
They had been trying to serve an arrest warrant in an aggravated assault case at a mobile home in the neighborhood before the sudden explosion of gunfire Sunday night. When they surveyed the aftermath, they made a heart-dropping discovery: They were at the wrong home.
Ismael Lopez likely never knew why officers were at his door — or even that they were officers.
What authorities know is that the officers involved, who have not been named, were trying to serve an arrest warrant at the house. When they approached, the door was open a crack and the gun was aimed at them, authorities said.
“The officers began hollering ‘Put the gun down! Put the gun down! Put the gun down! Put the gun down!’ at which point that did not occur,” District Attorney John Champion told the Commercial Appeal. “More than one shot was fired toward the door. There was a subject, a male subject, inside the residence that was killed as a result of this gunfire.”
No one else was injured, and it’s unclear if Lopez ever fired a shot at officers.
The district attorney stressed that Lopez, 41, didn’t have a warrant out for his arrest or a criminal record.
“The deceased subject had absolutely no warrant for his arrest,” Champion told Jackson, Miss., CBS-affiliate WJTV. “He wasn’t wanted for anything at all. I want to make that abundantly clear at this point.”
Lopez’s family has hired a lawyer, and people close to him tried to reconcile how a kind mechanic with a penchant for helping those in need could meet such a violent end.
Family friend Jordan Castillo told the Commercial Appeal that Lopez was a native of Veracruz, Mexico, who had lived and worked in the United States for years. He had been a mechanic for the city of Bartlett and operated a small mechanic’s shop across the street from his home. Castillo described Lopez as a father figure.
On Monday, Castillo showed reporters the broken railing on the front porch of Lopez’s home and the three bullet holes in its front door.
“If you’re shooting through a door in that manner, you don’t know who’s behind that door.”
The family’s attorney, Murray Wells told reporters the house officers should have gone to, had a large ‘P’ on the door.
“They should have never been on the property in the first place,” he told the Commercial Appeal.
He also has disputed several aspects of the police department’s account. He told Jackson, Miss., NBC-affiliate WMCA that Lopez didn’t have a gun in his hand when he was shot and that neighbors and Lopez’s wife, who had been in bed with him, didn’t hear officers tell him multiple times to drop the gun.
According to Wells, Lopez’s wife stayed in bed while he went to the door to see what was happening outside. That’s when she heard gunshots. She ran to her husband, but by the time she reached him, he was dead.
As the investigation continues, Wells said the family was most concerned about not having Lopez’s name marred by the violent way he died.
“They’ve been in that home for 13 years. The only time the police had ever been there was when they had been robbed,” Wells told WMCA. “No criminal history whatsoever. A long-standing employee of the city of Bartlett, mechanic. Loved in the neighborhood.”
Samuel Pearman, the man police were actually looking for on Sunday night, said they had also disparaged his name, according to WMCA. He went on Facebook Live saying the accusations against him were false.
“They made me out to be something I’m not,” he said. “I haven’t hurt her. She’s the one who slapped me.”
Lopez’s shooting happened as U.S. police departments are under intense scrutiny for their use of lethal force, especially against minorities.
According to The Washington Post’s Fatal Force database, 559 people have been shot by police this year. In 2016, 963 people were killed by police.