A man who had been deported from the U.S. five times used a handgun that belonged to a federal agent in last week's killing of a 32-year-old woman in San Francisco, a law enforcement source said Tuesday.
Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez, charged in the July 1 fatal shooting of Kathryn Steinle on Pier 14, used a pistol that was the property of a federal agent, KGO-TV first reported. A source confirmed KGO's report to HuffPost.
Lopez-Sanchez appeared in court Tuesday to be formally charged with murder and pleaded not guilty. In an earlier TV interview, he said he had found the gun wrapped up beneath a bench and it went off when he picked it up.
The San Francisco Chronicle said the gun had been reported stolen from a federal agent in a June auto break-in and was not the agent's official service weapon.
The San Francisco Police Department declined to verify information about the weapon.
"This information was not released by the San Francisco Police Department and we cannot confirm it," Officer Grace Gatpandan said in an emailed statement.
The shooting and arrest have sparked heated debate over immigration policy as Lopez-Sanchez, a citizen of Mexico with a lengthy criminal record in the U.S., had been in custody as recently as April. He was freed because San Francisco is one of many so-called sanctuary cities that don't comply with all federal requests to detain immigrants.
Lopez-Sanchez has seven felony convictions for drug and immigration charges and was on probation in Texas, leading some critics to say he shouldn't have been free before last week's killing.
The criminal complaint, filed in San Francisco Superior Court Tuesday, says Lopez-Sanchez illegally re-entered the U.S. five times in Texas from 1998 to 2011. According to San Francisco police, he's 45 years old, but jail records list him as 52.
The complaint sheds little light on the shooting of Steinle, who was hit while walking with her father and a family friend on Pier 14, a popular pedestrian area near the Bay Bridge.
Lopez-Sanchez had been in police custody in April, when federal prison officials transferred him to San Francisco county jail to face a 20-year-old local charge involving a $20 marijuana deal.
The San Francisco district attorney declined to prosecute that case, and the San Francisco sheriff released him, even though federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had asked the sheriff's office to keep him in custody. Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said in a statement that he had to let Lopez-Sanchez go because of a 2013 city law that said the city would not comply with federal requests to detain immigrants solely on the basis of whether they entered the U.S. with proper documentation.