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San Francisco death: Kate Steinle's family files lawsuit

30 May 2016

Relatives of the woman shot to death on a San Francisco pier a year ago filed a lawsuit Friday saying the illegal immigrant accused in the killing should have been in custody if not for a series of mistakes by city and federal workers.

The case ignited a firestorm at the time because of the suspect's immigration history and San Francisco's status as a sanctuary city - notifying ICE about suspected undocumented immigrants only in the case of violent crimes.

"He said a seven-time convicted felon was able to obtain a BLM officer's handgun due to negligence and ICE agents did not pursue his deportation".

The parents of Kate Steinle brought the suit, which claims the woman's death was "preventable" and even "foreseeable" because local and USA authorities failed their basic responsibility to keep the migrant off the streets.

Although immigration officials had issued a detainer request for Lopez-Sanchez, San Francisco jail officials did not honor it and instead released him.

They are also suing the Bureau of Land Management, as the gun that killed Kate was stolen from one of its agents two weeks before by an unknown party.

Lopez-Sanchez says the gun fired when he picked it up, striking Steinle in the back, piercing her heart.

"We believe that what happened here is merely a symptom of a much wider problem of law enforcement agencies failing to account for the weapons that are issued to their personnel", family attorney Frank Pitre said in an interview. He has pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge. San Francisco leaders maintain that they are not at fault and on Wednesday upheld protections for illegal immigrants.

The family of Kate Steinle is suing San Francisco and two federal agencies over her killing a year ago.

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.

The San Francisco Sheriff's Department had transported Lopez-Sanchez from federal prison in Victorville to San Francisco to appear in court on a 20-year-old bench warrant for marijuana possession and sales. The suit seeks unspecified damages.

The action also accuses Mirkarimi of violating city and state law, citing San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee's statement after the shooting that the sanctuary cities policy did not stop the sheriff's office from notifying federal officials.

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.

Even so, courts are unlikely to side with the Steinle family in part because of the precedent it would set for the myriad government decisions that result in someone being wronged, said Steven Clark, a South Bay legal analyst and criminal defense attorney.