The contentious legal battle between the widow of Southaven resident Ishmael Lopez, the Southaven Police Department, retired Police Chief Steve Pirtle, and the City of Southaven, continued on Sept. 26 with attorneys for Claudia Linares calling statements made in briefs filed by an attorney for the city worth a retraction and sanctioning for not being supported by the Constitution.
While Southaven Police officers Samuel Maze and Zachary Durden were not criminally charged when they fired into the residence of Lopez in 2017, a residence they mistook for another home, the Lopez estate and Linares have filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the officers, the police department, Pirtle, and the City of Southaven.
In motions to dismiss the case that Columbus attorney Katherine Kerby filed on behalf of the City and Officer Durden, she claimed that Lopez, as undocumented, should not be provided Constitutional protections, a claim Linares attorney Murray Wells vigorously refuted during a news conference held in his downtown Memphis law office.
“You have no rights to constitutional protections, meaning stormtroopers can come in and kill you without regard to any constitutional results or repercussions whatsoever,” Wells said. “The (U.S.) Supreme Court has continued to state that if you are on American soil, whatever your status is, you enjoy the full protection of the United States Constitution. The City of Southaven is taking those rights away from its residents.”
Lopez died on July 27, 2017, when Durden and Maze approached his home at 5881 Surrey Lane in Southaven. Lopez answered with his dog but immediately closed the door when he saw the officers, who eventually fired and shot the dog and Lopez.
The pair, in the investigation, was found to have gone to the wrong house seeking someone else on a domestic assault charge.
Linares and the Lopez estate are suing for civil rights violations under the Fourth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.
Kerby’s claims are part of motions to dismiss the case that were filed on behalf of the City and for Durden in U.S. District Court earlier in September. In her legal documents, court cases from 1990 and 2011 were cited. One had a suspected drug smuggler attempting to suppress evidence found in his Mexico residence by U.S. authorities after Mexico officials gave him to American authorities. The Supreme Court ruled the Fourth Amendment does not apply in his case.
Another centered on a Mexican who entered the country illegally and was prevented from having a firearm. He claimed he was protected by the Second Amendment but was ruled against by an appeals court.
In the Lopez case, it was pointed out that he had been deported to Mexico on two earlier occasions and had a criminal record.
Attorney Aaron Neglia addressed another contention, that Linares was not legally married to Lopez at the time of the shooting.
“Miss Linares was married for over 20 years to Ishmael Lopez. They were married in Crittenden County, Arkansas and we have provided them (Southaven) with a certified copy of their marriage certificate, which for some reason, they chose to disregard,” said Neglia. “It’s a real shame that they have to use these tactics to soil someone’s name when she lost her partner and love of her life.”
Wells said that his legal team has reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney General William Barr. Gov. Phil Bryant’s office has been contacted, along with state Attorney General Jim Hood.
“I’ve asked them to withdraw that plea because it was so badly brought and in our opinion, a broad violation of the Constitution,” Wells said.
Attorney Michael Carr of Cleveland, Mississippi, is also part of the Linares legal team and was also part of the Sept. 26 news conference.
Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite’s office provided a response later in the afternoon regarding the attorney’s comments on the case.
"As I’ve stated before, the City of Southaven will defend this matter in the court of law, not in the media via press conferences with ridiculously-misleading sound bites," Musselwhite said. "A federal judge will consider actual prior federal case law presented by the City’s attorney in this case. Our officers were not indicted by a Desoto Grand Jury and cleared by the FBI and Department of Justice and the City will continue to vigorously defend them and itself in this civil matter anxiously awaiting all facts being exposed."
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.