Southaven Police Chief Steve Pirtle this week responded to reports from attorneys for an officer-involved shooting victim demanding the department and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI) complete its investigation about a Southaven shooting death from earlier in the summer.
Pirtle was joined by Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite on Friday, who strongly defended his department’s actions in the aftermath of the shooting death of Ishmael Lopez, who was was fatally shot in late July after police officers went to his home looking for a domestic abuse suspect, an address that turned out to be incorrect.
Lopez died when shots were fired through a doorway by the officers. Police information indicated the officers saw a gun pointed in their direction and fired in response, a charge the Lopez family refutes.
Reports Thursday came out from attorney Murray B. Wells, representing the Lopez family, that they had new evidence they presented to reporters in demanding the police department and the MBI complete their investigation so the case can move forward.
At no time has Wells’ law firm contacted the DeSoto Times-Tribune with any comment or information, however.
The reports did cause Southaven Police Chief Steve Pirtle to release a statement stressing his department has no control over the investigation process in this case.
“I chose for this Agency not to investigate this matter, instead, to request the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the DeSoto County District Attorney to investigate,” Pirtle said. “The decision was not any legal mandate, but in order for there to be multiple third party reviews.”
Pirtle went on to say he, also, is awaiting the MBI results, while also stating he cannot control the speed at which it is done.
“I, just as you, am waiting for the full results of the investigation,” PIrtle stated. “It is not until we receive the final results of the MBI investigation that a review can be completed by the DeSoto County District Attorney. The City of Southaven has no control over the time frame in which it takes the Mississippi Crime Lab to complete its full review.”
Musselwhite Friday added his own defense of the Police Department, admonishing Lopez’s attorney not to rush to conclusions.
“We form judgements based on complete facts,” Musselwhite stated. “A picture painted with partial and inaccurate information is easy to create and very influential when strategically circulated through media avenues, but can be very misleading and dangerous to those that value the truth.”
Musselwhite defended the police, stating that it is not delaying its investigation.
“The suggestion that the Southaven Police Department has purposely delayed this investigation is completely false,” Musselwhite said. “The completion of this investigation is pending review by the Mississippi State Crime Lab which has expressed reasons for their unusual backlog. Our Police and City have no control over this delay and are as ready as anyone to see closure with this investigation.”
The officers involved in the incident have not been identified. The death certificate did state that Lopez’ death has been listed as a homicide and confirmed a gunshot wound to the head as the cause of death.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.