On July 24, 2017, police in Southaven, Miss., burst into 41-year-old Ismael Lopez’s house just before midnight. They were looking for a domestic violence suspect. They didn’t know at the time, but they were in the wrong person’s house, The Washington Post reported.
Police knocked on Lopez’s door then opened fire, killing him. Lopez, an undocumented immigrant, died from a gunshot wound to the back of the head. Prosecutors declined to charge the officers, so his widow, Claudia Linares, decided to sue the city of Southaven for $20 million for a civil rights violation.
But lawyers for Southaven are arguing that because the innocent man was not an American citizen, he wasn’t protected by the U.S. Constitution. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled several times in other cases that people who are physically in the United States do have rights, even if they are not documented citizens.
“If he ever had Fourth Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment civil rights, they were lost
by his own conduct and misconduct,” Southaven attorney Katherine S. Kerby wrote in a brief filed Sept. 4. “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.
Police officers claimed that Lopez opened the door of his house just a crack and pointed a gun at them. According to the Post, his wife and lawyers deny that.
Lawyers for Southaven, grasping at straws, also tried to say that Linares and Lopez were not legally married and described Linares as a “bigamous paramour.” That was quickly ruled out when lawyers for the Lopez estate filed a marriage certificate showing that the two were married in Arkansas in 2003, the Post reported.
“It’s a real shame that they have to use these tactics to soil someone’s name when she lost her partner, the love of her life, in a tragic accident,” attorney Aaron Neglia said at Thursday’s news conference.