The parents of a woman who was fatally shot on a San Francisco pier this summer by an illegal immigrant filed legal claims Tuesday against city and federal officials saying that their negligence contributed to her death.
The family of Kathryn Steinle claims that action taken by San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who ordered jail staff in March to no longer share details about undocumented immigrants with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, amounted to “deliberate indifference” toward state and federal laws that would have otherwise protected the 32-year-old.
Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the Mexican national charged with killing Steinle, was released from the San Francisco sheriff’s custody in April despite a request by ICE to take custody of him for deportation proceedings. He had been placed in the department’s custody as a result of a 20-year-old warrant for failure to appear on two drug charges.
Steinle’s death prompted criticism of San Francisco’s status as a so-called “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants, due to local law enforcement’s refusal to cooperate with federal authorities who were working to deport serious criminals.
Steinle’s parents filed three separate legal claims — against San Francisco officials, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of Homeland Security — all precursors to an official lawsuit against the agencies. The legal claims seek unspecified damages, and attorneys for the family said Tuesday if the claims are not resolved that they plan to file lawsuits.
The claim against BLM alleges that a ranger violated department policy by leaving his loaded service weapon, which was stolen in June, in a backpack inside his car.
“As a direct legal consequence of the BLM agent’s failure to exercise this mandatory duty, Lopez-Sanchez was able to gain access to a loaded .40 caliber government-issued firearm which was then foreseeably used to pursue a criminal course of conduct by the shooting and killing of Kate,” the legal claim states.
Lopez-Sanchez, 45, has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and has said he was examining the gun when it accidentally went off.
The Steinle family’s claims against Sheriff Mirkarimi allege that he violated federal law by barring communication with ICE and ignoring the ICE immigration detainer request.
The sheriff has said immigration officials could seek to take custody of an inmate through a warrant, though ICE officials have fought back against that characterization, saying there is no warrant or legal request that could have been filed.
Despite that, Tuesday’s claims also blame ICE for knowing that the sheriff’s department would not honor immigration detainer requests but failing to act further to take custody of the seven-time convicted felon.
The Steinle family said Tuesday at a press conference at San Francisco City Hall that they were motivated to file the legal claims to prevent a similar tragedy.
“We’re here to make sure that a change is made so nobody has to endure the pain that my mom and dad and I go through on a daily basis,” said Kate’s brother, Brad Steinle.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kenya Briggs told The Associated Press that Sheriff Mirkarimi declined to comment on the potential litigation but that he continues to extend his sympathy to the Steinle family for their loss.
Officials for both the Bureau of Land Management and ICE could not be reached for comment.