A Mississippi jury has ruled against a civil lawsuit filed by the widow of a man who was shot by two police officers serving a warrant at the wrong house.
A federal court jury in Oxford ruled Thursday that Southaven officers Zachary Durden and Samuel Mays did not violate Ismael Lopez’s civil rights when Durden shot and killed him in 2017. The verdict came after a four-day hearing in which Claudia Linares was seeking $20 million. In compensation for the death of her husband.
The city had previously argued that Lopez had no civil rights in the first place because the Mexican citizen was living in the United States illegally and was facing deportation orders. He also faced criminal charges for illegal possession of firearms.
However, a judge rejected that argument in 2020, saying that the rights listed in the Constitution apply to “all persons”.
An investigation states that Lopez and Linares were lying in bed on July 24, 2017, when officers Durden and Mays knocked on the door of their trailer. They intended to serve a domestic violence warrant, but the address was mixed with a neighbor across the street.
Authorities told investigators that when the door opened, a dog ran out and Lopez pointed a gun at them through the broken door. Then Mays shot the dog and Durden fired several shots at the door.
A third officer told investigators that he heard officers ordering Lopez to drop the gun several times before he fired. However, no known video footage of the incident exists.
Lopez, 41, was later shot by a bullet in the back of his head, more than 6 feet from the door. Police said he was trying to run away.
Lopez’s lawyers have disputed that he ever pointed a gun at officers, saying that his fingerprints and DNA were never found on the weapon. They argued that Lopez was shot because Durden was reacting to his partner shooting at the dog.
A state grand jury later declined to indict anyone in the case.
In a statement obtained by The Associated Press, Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite expressed condolences to Lopez’s family, but praised the jury’s decision to dismiss the civil suit. He also defended officers’ response to the situation, saying they took appropriate action after receiving a threat of lethal force.
“This verdict vindicates what we have believed since day one that our officers responded appropriately considering the situation when they were threatened with deadly force,” Musselwhite said. “That’s why we’ve stood behind them over the last six years and for their sake, we’re glad this trial is over.”