City Commissioner Michael Dunn shot and killed a man he accused of trying to steal a hatchet from his store, Vets Army Navy at 819 N. Florida Ave., this afternoon, according to the Lakeland Police Department.

The victim was identified as Cristobal Lopez, 50. Police said as Lopez’ father was making a purchase around 2:30 p.m., Dunn accused the younger Lopez of trying to hide a hatchet and leave the store with it. 

“Dunn stopped Lopez, asking him if he was going to pay for the item and a confrontation ensued,” LPD spokesman Gary Gross said in a news release. “Dunn then fired his weapon, striking Lopez who was still in possession of the hatchet.”

Police found his body in a parking lot just outside the front entrance to the store.

Detectives interviewed Dunn, Lopez’ father and two other store employees who were present.

An investigation that includes the State Attorney’s Office and the Medical Examiner’s Office is continuing, LPD said in the news release.

Dunn, 47, was elected to the Lakeland City Commission last

December and took office in January. As a candidate, he championed his role as a small business owner and as a commissioner he has advocated smaller government and the value of common sense over the recommendations of professionals and consultants.

Dunn has also advocated gun rights. In July, he volunteered his store to stage a rally countering a simultaneous gun-control rally being held in Munn Park. And in April he spoke at a Munn Park rally called to support Second Amendment rights and oppose efforts to move the park’s Confederate monument.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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