SAN FRANCISCO (UPI) — The family of a Northern California woman who was allegedly shot and killed last summer by an undocumented Mexican immigrant, who had previously been deported five times, filed a wrongful death lawsuit Friday against the city and county of San Francisco and the federal government.
The parents of Kate Steinle brought the suit, which claims the woman’s death was “preventable” and even “foreseeable” because local and U.S. authorities failed their basic responsibility to keep the migrant off the streets.
Steinle was killed last July 1 while walking along San Francisco’s Pier 14 with her father. Authorities said Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a Mexican national, was the one who shot her in what investigators said was a random incident.
The case drew outrage and criticism nationwide when it was reported that Lopez-Sanchez had a prior criminal history and was not living in the United States legally. Further, he had been deported to Mexico five times, and returned on each occasion, before Steinle’s death.
Lopez-Sanchez claimed that he never shot at Steinle and that her death was purely accidental. Last September, a judge ruled that Lopez-Sanchez will stand trial in the case.
The family’s suit alleges that if federal government officials and local officials had done their jobs properly, their daughter would still be alive today.
Weeks before Steinle’s death, Lopez-Sanchez was in federal prison for illegal reentry to the United States. In March, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, however, sent him to face a drug charge in San Francisco. In April, prosecutors dropped the charge and former San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who is also a defendant in the suit, released him from custody — despite requests from federal agents to return him.
The suit says Mirkarimi also barred his deputies from getting involved in the matter due to San Francisco’s status as a “sanctuary city.” The sanctuary law, passed in 1989, is intended to encourage undocumented immigrants to report crimes without fear of deportation.
The lawsuit argues that Mirkarimi was negligent in his actions because the sanctuary law still allows local and federal authorities to communicate with each other.
“Plaintiffs allege that Mirkarimi and the City and County of San Francisco (CCSF) acted negligently, carelessly, recklessly, and/or unlawfully,” the suit states. “As a direct and legal result of the wrongful acts and/or omissions of Mirkarimi and CCSF, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was not given the opportunity to take custody of Lopez-Sanchez and he was released into the City and County of San Francisco where he obtained a firearm and pursued a criminal course of conduct, killing Kate.”
The final straw, the suit claims, then came when Lopez-Sanchez obtained a handgun.
“Kate’s fate was sealed when a [federal] ranger failed to properly secure and/or store a government-issued firearm while it was left in an unoccupied vehicle in a high auto-theft neighborhood in the City and County of San Francisco, California,” the lawsuit states. “Due to this failure, Lopez-Sanchez was able to gain access to the firearm, which he then used to shoot and kill Kate.
“Kate’s death was both foreseeable and preventable had the law enforcement agencies, officials and/or officers involved simply followed the laws, regulations and/or procedures which they swore to uphold.”
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