The parents of the woman allegedly shot to death by an illegal immigrant last year on a San Francisco pier filed a lawsuit Friday saying the man accused in the killing should have been in police custody if not for a series of mistakes by city and federal workers, KTVU.com reported.
The killing of Kate Steinle in July 2015 and the arrest of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez put San Francisco’s leaders on the defensive as critics and outside politicians, including presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, called for a change in the city’s sanctuary law.
The sheriff at the time, Ross Mirkarimi, is named in the lawsuit, along with the city and other officials. Mirkarimi in the past has defended the release of the man, a repeat drug offender and habitual border-crosser.
“The Steinle Family hopes that their actions today will serve to highlight the lax enforcement of gun safety regulations among the law enforcement agencies involved and bureaucratic confusion so that this will not happen to others,” Frank Pitre, the lawyer representing the family, said to the station. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
Lopez-Sanchez has pleaded not guilty in January to second-degree murder and other charges in the death.
His lawyer, Matt Gonzalez, says the charge is too harsh because the shooting was inadvertent.
Steinle was shot in the back during an evening stroll with her father and a family friend along San Francisco’s popular waterfront on July 1. She died in her father’s arms.
Lopez-Sanchez told police that he found a gun wrapped in a T-shirt under a bench on the pier and that it fired accidentally when he picked it up. The weapon belonged to a Bureau of Land Management ranger, who reported it was stolen from his car in downtown San Francisco in June.
Ballistic experts testified at a September preliminary hearing that the shot ricocheted off the pier’s concrete surface before striking Steinle.
“A champion marksman could not accurately hit a target after first striking a concrete surface,” Gonzalez said.
Prosecutors say the second-degree murder charge is appropriate. If the judge dismisses the case, the district attorney could refile less-severe charges.
Lopez-Sanchez was in the country illegally after being released from a San Francisco jail despite a request from federal immigration authorities that local officials keep him in custody for possible deportation. Lopez-Sanchez was previously deported five times to his native Mexico.
San Francisco and other municipalities across California have enacted so-called sanctuary policies of ignoring requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold inmates thought to be in the country illegally for deportation proceedings.
The Associated Press contributed to this report