By Emmett Berg
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A convicted felon who had been deported to Mexico five times was seen acting erratically and captured in a tourist photo just moments before police say he shot dead a 32-year-old woman on a San Francisco pier last month, investigators said on Tuesday.
Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez has pleaded not guilty to the seemingly random shooting of Kathryn Steinle on July 1 as she walked with her father and a friend along the city's waterfront.
A San Francisco Superior Court judge is weighing whether prosecutors have enough evidence to proceed to trial with murder charges.
A police detective told the court that Steinle and her father had just taken a selfie and were walking arm-in-arm down Pier 14 the sound of a gunshot rang out and Steinle slumped to the ground, her telephone still in hand.
“‘Dad, help me, help me!’” she yelled after she was hit, police sergeant Nico Discenza testified. “He (her father) thought the phone blew up in her hand,” Discenza told the court.
Steinle's death highlighted a longstanding "sanctuary city" policy in San Francisco, one of several hundred U.S. municipalities that have policies designed to protect illegal immigrants from deportation by the federal government.
Her killing also drew national attention after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump used the incident to decry U.S.-Mexico border security.
Sanchez sat in the courtroom on Tuesday without speaking, at times tapping an orange plastic shoe repeatedly on the floor.
The prosecution said a witness gave police a photo appearing to depict the defendant seated steps away from the victim just before the shooting.
A different witness told police the suspect discarded an object off the pier that fell into San Francisco Bay with a plop, in the vicinity where divers later recovered a firearm linked to a bullet removed from Steinle.
Others saw the suspect acting erratically before the incident.
Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia also entered into evidence video footage taken during an extended interrogation with Sanchez the night of his arrest. Garcia said in the video that Sanchez had admitted shooting Steinle. The footage was not shown in court on Tuesday at the judge’s request.
The two-day preliminary hearing concludes Wednesday after Sanchez's attorneys present their case.
(Editing by Victoria Cavaliere and Nick Macfie)