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Slain Women’s Parents Blame SF Sheriff

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The family of a San Francisco woman allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant has filed a wrongful death suit against the career criminal, and against the United States and San Francisco.

Kate Steinle was shot in the chest on July 1, 2015 as she strolled along the Embarcadero near Pier 14 in downtown San Francisco.

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez is awaiting trial on a charge of second-degree murder.

Lopez-Sanchez had been convicted of seven felonies in the United States since 1993, and had been deported to Mexico five times. He finished serving a 46-month sentence in Victorville prison, for felony re-entry, just three months before the shooting.

The .40 caliber pistol used in the shooting had been stolen from a Bureau of Land Management officer's car four days before Steinle was shot, according to news reports and the lawsuit. Lopez said he was aiming at a sea lion; his attorney called the killing accidental.

The shooting heightened the stridency of arguments about illegal immigration.

In addition to the government agencies, Steinle's parents also sued former San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi in the federal lawsuit.

"Their failures to perform mandatory duties and for the unconstitutional negligent acts and omissions of their officers, officials, agents and employees ... resulted in the fatal shooting of Kathryn Steinle," the complaint states.

Specifically, Steinle's parents say their daughter's slaying can be traced back to a memo in which Mirkarimi ordering his officers not to communicate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement about undocumented immigrants.

Sanchez-Lopez was released from Victorville federal prison on March 26, 2015, to the custody of the sheriff's department in San Francisco, where he had an outstanding felony warrant for sale of marijuana, according to the complaint. The sheriff held him for 19 days and released him after charges were dropped, and did so without telling ICE, "despite ICE sending an immigration detainer request to CCSF wherein ICE specifically asked to be notified of Lopez-Sanchez's release," the complaint states.

Had the sheriff's office alerted ICE that it had Lopez-Sanchez in custody, he would have been deported and the tragedy averted, the Steinles say.

San Francisco is a so-called sanctuary city, under a 1989 that prohibits local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration agencies in some instances, so undocumented people will not fear reporting crime to police.

After Steinle was shot, Mayor Ed Lee noted that the law does allow communication between agencies in felony cases.

"Communicating with federal law enforcement agencies in these cases is simply common sense and in the best interest of public safety," Lee said in a statement five days after the shooting. "Once again, there is nothing in our Sanctuary City law that prohibits such communication."

Although ICE and the Bureau of Land Management are not listed as defendants, the Steinles blame their failures for allowing the killing to happen. They say a BLM officer left the loaded .40 caliber Sig Sauer pistol unlocked and in plain sight in a BLM car in downtown San Francisco.

The Steinles seek damages for wrongful death, negligence and deprivation of civil rights. They are represented by Frank Pitre, with Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy in Burlingame, who did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Nor did the San Francisco Sheriff's Department, ICE or the BLM.

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