HERNANDO, Miss. – A Mississippi prosecutor said Wednesday that a police officer who shot and killed an armed man after going to the wrong house won't face criminal charges.
DeSoto County District Attorney John Champion told reporters that a grand jury last week declined to indict the unnamed officer on murder or manslaughter charges in the death of Ismael Lopez.
Lopez was shot inside his home on July 23, 2017, by Southaven officers who were trying to locate a suspect who lived across the street in the Memphis, Tennessee, suburb, according to authorities.
Attorney Murray Wells tells local news outlets that Lopez's relatives are saddened and confused by the lack of criminal charges.
Champion said Wednesday that three officers went to Lopez's home after a GPS system indicated it as the residence of a suspect wanted on domestic violence charges. Champion said officers knocked on the door, but that he doesn't think they identified themselves.
"They didn't go busting up in the wrong house," Champion said. "They knocked on the door. This isn't the first time that happened."
The district attorney said a dog ran out the front door "aggressively" and one of the officers fired at it twice. Then a second officer saw a rifle sticking out the door of the trailer home, Champion said. He said both officers yelled repeatedly for Lopez to put the gun down, and that the second officer fired four shots into the trailer when the gun didn't go down.
"Basically, the gun was being pulled back in when the officer fired and Mr. Lopez was hit," Champion said. "He fell probably 8 to 10 feet from where he was standing at the door."
Champion speculated that Lopez may have been turning around when he was shot. A loaded rifle was recovered from a sofa near the door. Champion said Lopez's wife said later that she had told Lopez that police were outside.
Lopez was shot once in the back of the head. Champion said he waited months for an autopsy report from Mississippi's state medical examiner. He described the report he received as "very poorly written" and said it didn't provide enough information to confirm or dispute the account of the officers. The medical examiner's office has struggled with a shortage of pathologists.
No known video exists of the shooting.
The two officers have never been identified. Since the shooting, one officer has resigned from the Southaven police and the second officer has been assigned to a desk job.
Pastor Rolando Rostro of Iglesia Nueva Vida Church in Memphis called the decision Wednesday an "outrage." He led a protest against Southaven police last year, saying members of his church were friends with Lopez.
"We have a shot at the back of the head," Rostro told WREG-TV in disbelief at the grand jury's decision. "Yet he (Champion) is washing his hands of this. Shame on the district attorney. Shame on you."
This story has been corrected to show one officer fatally shot man, not two.