The suspect accused of a random shooting that killed a woman strolling a popular San Francisco pier had previously been deported five times.
Francisco Sanchez, 45, was arrested soon after allegedly firing a single shot that killed Kathryn Steinle, 32, as she and her father walked on Pier 14 Wednesday evening, San Francisco police have said. He had been a free man at the time because San Francisco is a sanctuary city that doesn't comply with all federal immigration requests and there was no active warrant for his arrest.
In March, federal officials transferred Sanchez to San Francisco County Jail to face an existing local drug charge, according to the San Francisco sheriff's office. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities also asked the sheriff's office to keep Sanchez in custody and to notify them if he were to be released.
The city district attorney declined to pursue the drug charge and the sheriff's office said in a statement that it released Sanchez in April because there was no warrant for his arrest anywhere else — only an ICE request to keep him locked up. A 2013 city law signed by Mayor Ed Lee outlawed detaining immigrants solely on the basis of whether they legally entered the country.
The sheriff's office "is deeply saddened by the tragic death of Ms. Steinle and offer our sincere condolences to her family and friends," the statement said.
The conflicting approach to immigration policy has been criticized in the wake of the shooting by people ranging from Steinle's parents to Donald Trump.
"He should have never been out, and now our daughter is gone forever,” Steinle's mother, Liz Sullivan, told The San Francisco Chronicle.
Sanchez has a long criminal history that includes seven felony convictions for drug and immigration charges, according to the Chronicle. He was on probation from Texas on an unspecified charge, according to the San Francisco police.
The shooting has turned into a high-profile case because of its apparently random nature in a busy section of the city.
The bullet struck Steinle in the back and pierced her aorta, according to The Oakland Tribune. Her father attempted CPR as witnesses snapped photos of the gunman that police said helped them identify Sanchez about an hour later, several blocks away.