Mississippi Police Shot a Bullet Into the Back of His Head. A City Attorney Is Arguing It Doesn’t Matter Since He’s Not a Citizen

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Mississippi police should have never been at Ismael Lopez’s door. But in executing a warrant for a man wanted for domestic assault in July 2017, police went to the wrong address, arriving at Lopez’s home instead of the suspect’s.

Lopez would not survive the encounter with police, who never announced themselves at the door. He died from a single bullet to the back of his head.

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Now, the city is arguing they have no liability over what happened to Lopez because he was not a U.S. citizen, CNN reports.

An attorney for Southaven, Miss., filed a motion to have a wrongful death lawsuit dismissed on Sept. 4, arguing that Lopez does not qualify for constitutional protections because he was an “illegal alien” when he was fatally shot by the state.

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From CNN:

“If he ever had Fourth Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment civil rights, they were lost by his own conduct and misconduct. Ismael Lopez may have been a person on American soil but he was not one of the ‘We, the People of the United States’ entitled to the civil rights invoked in this lawsuit,” a city attorney wrote in her motion.

In the conclusion, the city lawyer says, “Federal civil rights are not civil rewards for violating the laws of the United States.”

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Southaven is also arguing that because Lopez himself had a criminal record (“for a crime of violence,” the motion reads) that he does not have the same rights as legal immigrants or visa holders.

Let’s clear up one thing out the gate: the U.S. Constitution applies to every person residing in the U.S., regardless of what papers they do or don’t have (and, in fact, if one actually cared to read the U.S. Constitution, as this city attorney appears to have not, the document frequently refers to “people” or “person” rather than “citizen”).

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Put another way: In the same way being a non-citizen doesn’t exempt you from following the laws of the place you live in, so too, should a non-citizen expect to be protected under those laws.

Lopez is exemplary of this precisely because he hasn’t had a particularly commendable record. As CNN reports:

Lopez had previously been deported twice and re-entered the country without permission, according to a Mississippi Bureau of Investigation report obtained by the Commercial Appeal in Memphis. He had been arrested on domestic violence and DUI charges in Washington State in the 1990s, according to the report.

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But that’s the thing about the Constitution, especially its most basic protections: They don’t just apply to “good” people, or people you like.

Lopez’s family attorney, Murray Wells, held a news conference last Thursday addressing the city of Southaven’s “chilling” position.

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Once again, from CNN:

“In an address to a federal judge in an open pleading in court, the city of Southaven has announced that it is their policy that if you are an undocumented resident of that city, you have no constitutional protections,” Wells said.

“Meaning, that storm troopers can come into your house and kill you without regard to any constitutional results or repercussions whatsoever.”

“It’s in direct conflict with the Constitution of the United States, which clearly says under the 14th Amendment line one (that) all persons on United States territories have constitutional rights,” Wells said. “We’re shocked; we do not believe that those arguments are in good faith. We don’t believe they’re founded on any real law whatsoever.”

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A grand jury failed to indict the two police officers for homicide or manslaughter in Lopez’s killing in 2018. One has since left the department. As for the police chief overseeing the officers who killed Lopez (and who were caught last year on video “hog-tying” a suspect who later died)?

He’s enjoying his retirement.

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About the author

Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?