Polk County

Lakeland leaders fill empty seat after commissioner arrested for murder

BARTOW, Fla. (WFLA) - On Friday morning, city leaders in Lakeland decided what happens to an open commission seat now that Michael Dunn has resigned.

At a special meeting, Lakeland City Commissioners voted 5-1 to appoint former City Commissioner Don Selvage to temporarily fill the seat.

Selvage previously held the Southwest District seat but decided not to run for re-election. Dunn was then elected to the position in 2018 and was six months into a four year term.

On Jan. 15, a special election will be held to elect an official replacement. 

"I have mixed emotions," Selvage said of the decision. "This is under tragic circumstances. I didn’t apply for the position. But, I’m honored that the commission has enough confidence in me to ask me to come back and serve for a couple months."

Selvage was picked because he does not intend to run for the seat again and city commissioners said they wanted to give every candidate the same opportunity to get the seat.

"I have no intention of running for the seat. My intention Is to serve the citizens of Lakeland in the Southwest District for the next couple of months to the best of my abilities and leave political life again," Selvage said.

Dunn is accused of murdering a suspected shoplifter Oct. 3.  He turned in his resignation a few weeks later, documents show.

Dunn was released from jail after posting $150,000 bond Thursday night and will remain on house arrest until his trial. He ran away from reporters when he was released from jail.

Dunn is charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of Christobal Lopez.

Detectives say Lopez was trying to steal a hatchet from Dunn's military surplus store when he was shot.

Dunn appeared in a Polk County courtroom Thursday for a bond hearing. A witness to the deadly shooting testified.

Judge Wayne Durden said Dunn isn't allowed to possess any guns or ammunition. He can work, but not at his military surplus store because the store sells weapons.

Dunn is using the Stand Your Ground claim in the case.

Mark O'Mara, who's well-known for defending George Zimmerman in the Stand Your Ground murder of Trayvon Martin, will help represent Michael Dunn, as well as Bartow Attorney Rusty Franklin.

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