Pier shooting victim's family hopes lawsuits force change in sanctuary policy

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU and wires) -- Jim Steinle hopes his family's lawsuit against the San Francisco Sheriff's Department, the Bureau of Land Management and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement department will prevent anyone from living his nightmare.

Steinle was walking with his 32-year-old daughter, Kate, on a popular San Francisco pier when she was fatally struck by a bullet.

"I'm walking arm-in-arm with my daughter and a very good friend. She stops to take a selfie. She turns around real quick and she's shot," he told reporters. "As she fell, she said 'Help Me Dad' -- That's my bedtime story every night."

Within an hour of the shooting, police arrested Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant who had been deported five times and has seven prior felony convictions, including four involving narcotics.

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The shooting and arrest have triggered a national debate on San Francisco's Sanctuary City policy, which limits cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.

Lopez-Sanchez, a Mexican national, had been released from San Francisco County Jail in April despite a request from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service to detain him so that ICE field agents could deport him for a sixth time.

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who has borne the brunt of the criticism following the incident, has argued that cooperating with the ICE request would have violated San Francisco's Sanctuary City and Due Process for All policies, as well as the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Mayor Ed Lee.

Family attorney Frank Pitre said the goal of the lawsuits was to end the finger-pointing between local and federal authorities over who is responsible for the circumstances that led to Lopez-Sanchez being on the street and not in jail.

"Stop the finger pointing. Stop the bickering about what was required to be done and by whom to have prevented this tragedy," Pitre said. "We want to be assured this doesn't happen again."

With emotion in his voice, Brad Steinle -- Kate's brother -- said the family was disappointed that no changes have been made in the city's sanctuary policy.

"It's been two months since Kate's death and the City of San Francisco and the Sheriff's Department have done absolutely nothing to protect this from happening to another person," he said. "We have exhausted all our avenues and we are frustrated. We are here to make sure that a change is made so no one has to endure the pain my mom, dad and I have to go through on a daily basis."

Mirkarimi issued a statement Monday night saying that while he "can't comment on potential litigation, he continues to extend his deepest sympathy to the Steinle family for their loss."

The gun used in the shooting had been previously reported stolen by a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger while he was traveling on official business in San Francisco.

In a preliminary hearing last week to determine if Lopez-Sanchez would stand trial for murder experts testified that the bullet that killed Steinle appears to have ricocheted off of something before hitting her,  suggesting that she was not the intended target. That hearing has been continued to Sept. 3.