Sanchez charged with murder in San Francisco pier shooting
SAN FRANCISCO (AP and KTVU) -- The San Francisco District Attorney's Office announced early Monday evening that Francisco Sanchez has been charged with murder for the incident stemming from the Wednesday evening shooting at Pier 14.
32-year-old Kathryn Steinle was shot Wednesday as she walked with her father and a family friend at Pier 14, one of the busiest attractions in the city. Police arrested 45-year-old Francisco Sanchez about an hour after the seemingly random slaying of the San Francisco resident.
Sanchez is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Sanchez has seven felony convictions and has been deported five times to his native Mexico, most recently in 2009, federal officials said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had turned Sanchez over to authorities in San Francisco on March 26 on an outstanding drug warrant.
The Sheriff's Department released Sanchez on April 15 after the San Francisco district attorney's office declined to prosecute him for what authorities said was a decade-old marijuana possession case.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the agency had issued a detainer for Sanchez, requesting notification of his release and that he stay in custody until immigration authorities could pick him up. The detainer was not honored, she said.
Freya Horne, counsel for the San Francisco Sheriff's Department, said Friday that federal detention requests are not sufficient to hold someone. Under the city's sanctuary ordinance, people in the country illegally aren't handed over to immigration officials unless there's a warrant for their arrest.
Local officials checked and found none. ICE could have issued an active warrant if it wanted the city to keep Sanchez jailed, Horne said.
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi strongly defended his office's release of Sanchez and pointed the finger back at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
He said the federal agency should have issued an arrest warrant for Sanchez.
"ICE knew that he had been deported five times," Mirkarimi said. "You would have thought he met a threshold that he required a court order or a warrant. They did not do that."
The case has prompted a flurry of criticism from ICE officials, politicians and commenters on social media, all of whom portrayed the slaying as a preventable tragedy.
"Most of the blame should fall squarely on the shoulders of the San Francisco sheriff, because his department had custody of him and made the choice to let him go without notifying ICE," said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, which wants tougher immigration enforcement.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the Virginia Republican who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, blamed sanctuary practices and the Obama administration, saying: "The tragic murder of Kate Steinle once again underscores the need to end these reckless policies."
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee released a statement Monday regarding the tragic death of Steinle.
In part, Mayor Lee's statement read, "I am deeply saddened by the tragic and senseless death of Kathryn Steinle. First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers are with Kathryn’s family and friends at this very difficult time. I have spoken with Kathryn’s family, and they would like everyone to remember their daughter for the wonderful person that she was..."
The statement continued, "There has been much discussion about San Francisco’s Sanctuary City Policy in the aftermath of Kathryn’s death. Let me be clear: San Francisco’s Sanctuary City Policy protects residents regardless of immigration status and is not intended to protect repeat, serious and violent felons. Our City’s policy helps immigrant and limited-English speaking communities where sometimes people fear and mistrust the criminal justice system."
California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a former San Francisco district attorney who is running for U.S. Senate, cautioned that when it comes to immigration, "our policy should not be informed by our collective outrage about one man's conduct."
Many other San Francisco politicians stayed quiet as mourners held a late morning vigil at Pier 14 on the downtown waterfront, where the 32-year-old Steinle was gunned down Wednesday, seemingly at random, during an evening stroll with her father and a family friend. She had recently moved to San Francisco.
While many cities have scaled back cooperation with ICE, few have gone as far as San Francisco.
For more than two decades, San Francisco has been considered a sanctuary for people in the U.S. illegally.
The city's sanctuary law prohibits city employees from helping federal authorities with immigration investigations or arrests unless required by law or warrant. That said, the ordinance does not prohibit local law enforcement from informing ICE that they've arrested someone in the country illegally for a felony offense or who has prior felony convictions.
In 2013, Mirkarimi's office started turning over fewer people under arrest to federal immigration authorities for deportation.
Mirkarimi on Monday stood behind the city's sanctuary law as a way to fight crime and promote trust. His office routinely ignores such federal immigration requests unless backed by an active warrant. He said ICE was aware of San Francisco's policy.
Earlier this year, Sanchez was released from federal prison -- where he had served a sentence for re-entering the country after deportation -- and turned over to the Sheriff's Department on an outstanding drug-related warrant. The San Francisco district attorney's office declined to prosecute what authorities said was a decade-old marijuana possession case, and Sanchez was freed on April 15.
Before he was set free, ICE had filed a so-called detainer with San Francisco authorities, asking to be informed if they intended to let him go, ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said. But she said ICE was never notified.
"We're not asking local law enforcement to do our job," she said in a statement. "All we're asking is that they notify us when a serious foreign national criminal offender is being released to the street so we can arrange to take custody."
In the past 21 months, immigration authorities have issued more than 230,000 detainers, according to ICE. Since January 2014, law enforcement agencies around the country have failed to honor about 17,000 detainers, 61 percent of them in California, ICE said.