San Francisco mayor says 'concerned' over release of suspected gunman

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 06, 2015 6:59 PM

By Curtis Skinner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee on Monday expressed concern about the release of a convicted felon who had been deported from the United States to Mexico five times and is now being held in fatal shooting of a woman last week.

Francisco Sanchez, 45, who was arrested for the shooting of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle last Wednesday evening, drew national attention after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump over the weekend used the killing to decry U.S.-Mexico border security.

Lee directed authorities to look at the steps they took with Sanchez leading up to the shooting, while defending his city's so-called sanctuary policy as one that protects immigrant communities and should not shield criminals.

"All agencies involved, federal and local, need to conduct quick, thorough and objective reviews of their own departmental policies and the decisions they made in this case," Lee said in a statement.

Dozens of so-called sanctuary cities across the U.S. limit the assistance they provide to federal immigration authorities aiming to apprehend or deport individuals.

Immigration officials said Sanchez was released from federal prison in March after a felony re-entry conviction. He was transferred to the custody of the San Francisco County Sheriff's Office on a drug arrest warrant and federal officials asked to be notified prior to his release.

The Sheriff's Office said the charges were dismissed and since there was no active warrant or judicial order for Sanchez's removal, the city's policy deemed Sanchez "ineligible for extended detention" and he was freed.

Sanchez has a long criminal history including seven felonies and has been deported to Mexico five times, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

An anonymous law enforcement source told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper that Sanchez was shooting at sea lions and struck Steinle by accident.

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In a jail house interview with local broadcaster KGO-TV, Sanchez admitted to the shooting, saying he had just taken several sleeping pills and the gun went off when he picked it up.

Trump, who drew heavy criticism for describing immigrants from Mexico to the United States as drug-runners and rapists during the launch of his presidential bid last month, weighed in on the shooting on Saturday.

"This senseless and totally preventable act of violence committed by an illegal immigrant is yet another example of why we must secure our border immediately," Trump said.

(Editing by Steve Orlofsky)