On the steps of San Francisco City hall Tuesday, the parents and brother of the woman shot on a pier by a Mexican national who had entered the United States illegally laid the blame not only on the shooter but on local and federal officials, whom they said could have prevented the killing.
In front of a media scrum that has been following the case closely after it sparked a national political debate, Brad Steinle and his parents, Jim Steinle and Liz Sullivan, said they had filed a claim against San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management – whose agent lost the gun that was used in the killing of their daughter, Kathryn Steinle.
"We're here not only for Kate, we're here for every citizen of this country who comes to San Francisco," Jim Steinle said, according to the San Jose Mercury News. "If you think this can’t happen to you, think again."
The July 1 incident, which led to illegal immigration and so-called “sanctuary cities” dominating the presidential campaign for weeks, focused on Juan Francisco López Sánchez, a 45-year-old who had been in police custody shortly beforehand but was let go despite a request from ICE to hold him for possible deportation proceedings.
A 1989 law prohibits municipal employees in San Francisco from helping with federal immigration enforcement efforts unless compelled to do so by a court order.
"What happened on Pier 14 was not only foreseeable, it was preventable," said family lawyer Frank Pitrie.
Asked about the suit, Mirkarimi’s office issued a statement saying he can’t comment on possible litigation, according to the San Jose Mercury News, adding that the sheriff “continues to extend his deepest sympathy to the Steinle family for [its] loss.”
López Sánchez has been charged with murder, but court hearings have been held to determine whether the evidence proving he intended to shoot Steinle is strong enough for him to stand trial.
San Francisco police inspector John Evans, testified that investigators found a spot on Pier 14 where a bullet ricocheted, leaving a mark before striking Steinle in the back. Medical examiner Michael Hunter also testified that the bullet made a rectangular-shaped wound rather than a more typical oval-shaped wound, suggesting that the bullet ricocheted.
Jim Norris, the former head of the San Francisco police crime lab testified last week that, despite the ricochet, it appeared that López Sánchez was aiming the .40 caliber Sig Sauer semi-automatic pistol — a weapon that belonged to a BLM agent — at Steinle, some 100 feet away, when he fired.
The hearings are scheduled to continue Thursday of this week.
López Sánchez has been convicted of illegally entering the U.S. five times. He was being held in San Francisco prison on a 20-year-old warrant for marijuana possession. The city did not notify ICE when the charges were dropped.
Four counties in the Bay Area – Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Marin – have decided to start alerting ICE to prisoner releases since Steinle’s death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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