A U.S. District Court judge has denied a motion to dismiss the case against the city of Southaven and several officers in connection to the shooting of Ismael Lopez.
In 2017, Southaven Police officers Samuel Maze and Zachary Durden mistakenly went to Lopez’s home while trying to serve a domestic violence warrant.
What happened during the following altercation is in dispute, but it ended with Lopez dead from a gunshot to the back of the head.
The three officers involved said that Lopez pointed a rifle at them through the door and his dog charged them. Lopez’s wife, Claudia Linares, disputes the officers’ statement.
In response to a wrongful death suit filed by Linares against the city of Southaven, the city argued that Lopez’s Fourth Amendment rights against improper searches and seizures were not violated because his undocumented status meant he was not protected by the U.S. Constitution.
In his rejection of the city’s motion filed on Wednesday, District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. wrote “the court finds it well settled that constitutional protections extend to non-citizens, documented or otherwise.”
One of the officers involved in Lopez’s death, Samuel Maze, is now a special agent in the FBI, a role he stepped into in July 2019. Maze said he was not served properly for this lawsuit and argued it should be dismissed on that basis.
When attorneys for Lopez’s family attempted to serve Maze, he was undergoing FBI training and couldn’t be reached directly, so they served the FBI’s Office of General Counsel. Maze said he had not authorized the office to be served on his behalf.
Biggers addressed this issue in Wednesday’s ruling by granting Linares and Autry extra time to properly serve Maze.
The three defendants named in the lawsuit alongside the city are no longer employed by the Southaven Police Department. Steve Pirtle announced his retirement in May of 2019 after serving as police chief for three years. Samuel Maze works for the FBI, according to court documents. Zachary Durden no longer works for the Southaven Police Department.
In July of 2018, a grand jury did not indict the officers involved in Lopez’s death.
The FBI began an investigation into a federal civil rights complaint against Southaven Police, but the department said in an October 2018 letter that it would decline further action because “it has been determined that a violation of Lopez’s federal civil rights could not be successfully prosecuted beyond a reasonable doubt in a federal district court.”
This is an ongoing story and will be updated as new information becomes available.