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Kate Steinle's parents sue San Francisco, immigration officials over her death

Father Cameron Faller and Julio Escobar conduct a vigil for Kathryn Steinle on Pier 14 in San Francisco, July 6, 2015.

Father Cameron Faller and Julio Escobar conduct a vigil for Kathryn Steinle on Pier 14 in San Francisco, July 6, 2015.  (ap)

The parents of Kate Steinle, who was killed last year while walking on a San Francisco pier, have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city and two federal agencies.

Steinle’s parents say in the suit that the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department helped contribute to their daughter’s murder by failing to tell immigration officials that it was releasing the alleged killer, Juan Francisco López-Sánchez, from jail after prosecutors opted not to act against him in connection to a 20-year-old bench warrant for marijuana possession and sales.

López-Sánchez, who was in the United States illegally from Mexico, was released by San Francisco authorities despite having served three prison terms for felony re-entry into the country.

López-Sánchez admitted to having shot Steinle, although he claimed it was unintentional. He says he found the gun, and it fired when he picked it up, striking Steinle in the back.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the gun had been reported stolen from a Bureau of Land Management official’s car four days before Steinle’s death.

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Her parents are suing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Land Management as well as the Sheriff's Department.

Immigration officials had issued a hold request for López-Sánchez, but San Francisco jailers declined to comply with it.

San Francisco is one of numerous cities across the nation that restrict the cooperation between public employees and federal immigration officials, arguing that such activity alienates immigrant communities from police.

The city allows for its employees to comply with an immigration detainer – which involves holding a person who has been arrested until immigration officials can assume custody – but only in cases where the detainee has been charged with violent felonies. The Times reported that López-Sánchez did not have any violent felony convictions or pending charges.

“By prohibiting notification to [immigration officials] necessary for custody, detention, deportation and/or removal of undocumented convicted felons, the March memo deprived Kate of life and liberty without due process,” the lawsuit reads, according to the Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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