Parents of woman shot in San Francisco file wrongful death claims

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 01, 2015 11:40 PM

By Emmett Berg

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The family of a woman shot dead on a San Francisco pier in July filed wrongful death claims on Tuesday against the sheriff and two federal agencies, citing negligence and other errors in the handling of an undocumented immigrant accused of killing her.

Kathryn Steinle, 32, was gunned down, apparently at random, on July 1 as she walked arm-in-arm with her father along the city's waterfront.

A convicted felon who had been deported from the United States to Mexico five times, Juan Francisco Sanchez-Lopez, is facing murder charges in connection with Steinle's death. The gun used in the crime had been stolen from the car of a federal law enforcement ranger, officials have said.

The case rose to national prominence when Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump said Steinle's death was the result of failed U.S. immigration policies.

The three claims, brought by Steinle's parents, James Steinle and Elizabeth Sullivan, say both local and federal authorities should be held accountable for her death.

One claim accuses San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and the sheriff’s department of failing to hand over Lopez to immigration officials.

The shooting highlighted the long-standing "sanctuary city" policy in San Francisco, one of several hundred municipalities across the country that limit assistance to federal immigration authorities aiming to apprehend or deport individuals.

The claim says the sheriff and his office showed "combined negligence and/or refusal to carry out mandatory duties to report convicted felons that are undocumented immigrants to [U.S.] Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” according to documents filed by attorney Frank Pitre.

A second claim says Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials should have done more to have detained and deported Lopez, "yet failed to do so."

A third claim against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management asserts that a law enforcement ranger for the agency improperly stored a firearm that was stolen from a vehicle parked in San Francisco, a pistol later connected to the bullet that killed Steinle. 

Officials from the government agencies were not immediately available to comment. The claims seek unspecified damages.

A judge in San Francisco is weighing whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence to proceed to trial on murder charges against Lopez-Sanchez, who has pleaded not guilty.

(Editing by Victoria Cavaliere and Robert Birsel)