Sacramento church shooter, who killed daughters, was in country illegally, officials say

Sacramento Sheriff's Office issued a press release Friday with more details on the background of the shooter who killed his daughters, their chaperone and then himself at a Sacramento church earlier this week. 

According to the sheriff, the shooter, who was previously identified as David Fidel Mora-Rojas, 39, had lived at the church, was in the country illegally and the department said they had prior contact with him on April 17, 2021. 

Immigration officials told Associated Press on Friday, Mora-Rojas was in the United States illegally. 

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said Mora-Rojas overstayed his visa after entering California from Mexico in December 2018.

The Merced County Sheriff's Office said because of California's so-called sanctuary state law it did not inform immigration officials last week that Mora-Rojas had been arrested for punching an officer. 

Mora-Rojas was arrested on February 23, 2022, in Merced County for driving under the influence, assaulting a peace officer, and later for assaulting medical staff, Sacramento Sheriff's office said.   

Mora-Rojas was armed with an unregistered AR-15-style assault rifle with an illegal extended 30-round ammunition magazine. At the end of the shooting, 17 casings were found at the scene. 

The mother of his three children, ages 9, 10, and 13, had obtained a restraining order against him after the previous domestic violence incident from April. 

In April, officials said associates from the church called them because Mora-Rojas had indicated he wanted to harm himself and his wife. Deputies performed a welfare check. Mora-Rojas was transported to a local hospital and was involuntarily held for a mental health evaluation.

The sheriff's department said from that point on, Mora-Rojas was living at the church.

That restraining order barred him from possessing a firearm and authorities do not know how or when he obtained it.

MORE: Father who killed daughters, chaperone at Sacramento church barred from owning guns

"The person who knows these answers is dead. I think I can safely say, he obtained it illegally," sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Rodney Grassmann said.

"This unspeakable tragedy highlights the true cost, unintended or not, of sanctuary policies that prevent law enforcement from protecting its citizens", said Sheriff Scott Jones.

 Jones previously blamed U.S. immigration policy under former Democratic President Barack Obama for the slayings of two Northern California deputies in 2014 by a man who was in the country illegally. The accusation became the subject of an ad by former President Donald Trump in 2018.

Jones ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate for Congress in 2016 and is again running for Congress.

Grisel Ruiz, supervising attorney for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, said gun control and domestic violence appear to be the central issues in the killings, while immigration status had no bearing. 

"Regretfully, we've seen tragic incidents politicized in the past, resulting in misguided policies targeting immigrants, which in turn make it harder for immigrant survivors to actually get the help that they need," she said.

It is not clear whether Mora-Rojas faced a significant danger of being deported despite immigration officials' interest after his arrest. Although ICE had asked to be notified of Mora's release, immigration officials did not take any additional steps to deport him after he was released on bail. 

Under Democratic President Joe Biden, immigration officials put their priority for deportation on people whom they deem threats to public safety or national security or who recently crossed the border. That's a departure from the Trump administration, which sought anyone in the country illegally for deportation.

Associated Press contributed to this report.