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San Francisco pier shooting suspect caught in photos by tourists, police say

Francisco Sánchez, centro, sale del tribunal en San Francisco entre su defensor de oficio Jeff Adachi, derecha, y la fiscal Diana Garciaor, tras ser instruido de cargos el 7 de julio de 2015 en San Francisco. Un agente policial dice que el arma utilizada en la muerte a tiros de una mujer en un muelle en San Francisco pertenecía a un agente federal, en el giro más reciente de un caso de gran repercusión por ser el sospechoso un inmigrante mexicano en situación irregular. (Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool)

Francisco Sánchez, centro, sale del tribunal en San Francisco entre su defensor de oficio Jeff Adachi, derecha, y la fiscal Diana Garciaor, tras ser instruido de cargos el 7 de julio de 2015 en San Francisco. Un agente policial dice que el arma utilizada en la muerte a tiros de una mujer en un muelle en San Francisco pertenecía a un agente federal, en el giro más reciente de un caso de gran repercusión por ser el sospechoso un inmigrante mexicano en situación irregular. (Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool)

A preliminary hearing was being held Tuesday to determine if there's enough evidence to try Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the undocumented immigrant charged with the shooting death of Kathryn Steinle last month on a San Francisco pier.

He was brought into court heavily shackled at the waist and ankles. The slight man nervously twitched his right leg up and down and stared at the floor during most of the hearing.

Police investigators testified that several tourists had produced photographs of the murder suspect moments before and after he is alleged to have randomly shot and killed the 32-year-old. 

Neither photo shown in court clearly showed the suspect's face.

A third-grade teacher was hanging out in her hotel room near San Francisco’s Pier 14 when she heard the gunshot.

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Testifying in the preliminary hearing, San Francisco Det. Nico Discenza said the teacher took out her cell phone and in photos captured a man hurrying away from the scene.

He said the teacher, Maria Morino, noticed the man dressed in dark clothing was walking away from the scene as others were rushing to help Steinle, who had collapsed after the gunshot.

“She heard a bang,” Discenza said of Morino, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “She heard screaming.”

He said the man was “hastily walking away” and so she “drilled on to him,” taking photos from her hotel room window.

“I recall her saying he was the only one walking off the pier,” Discenza added in his testimony.

Police investigators testified that tourists at the pier also captured the moments before and after the shooting.

A woman from China snapped a photo of a group shortly before the shooting, capturing the same suspect sitting on a chair on the pier as Steinle walks past him.

Steinle, a Pleasanton native who lived in San Francisco, was shot while strolling with her father. She died a few hours later.

Prosecutors showed a "selfie" photo taken of Steinle, her father and a family friend moments before the fatal shooting.

"They were just doing tourist stuff," Discenza testified.

Sanchez, a 45-year-old Mexican immigrant who has been deported five times from the U.S., pleaded not guilty to the July 1 shooting. He told KGO-TV in a jailhouse interview following the slaying that he found a gun wrapped in a T-shirt while sitting on a bench at the pier, and it started firing on its own after he picked it up.

The shooting re-ignited debate over federal immigration policies of jail inmates. San Francisco and other cities and counties ignore requests from federal authorities to detain jail inmates who are thought to be in the country illegally.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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