The grisly killing of five people in a house near City College of San Francisco shocked and saddened a neighborhood and the entire city.
Early in the morning of March 23, at least one person entered the house on 16 Howth St. and, using an object that may have had a cutting edge, beat and cut five human beings until they were dead. A relative of several of the victims walked into the house at 7:45 am. She found a body in the foyer, discovered two more in the garage and ran for help.
The killings were so brutal that police reported on the first day that some of the victims could have been shot, and much was speculated about the crime possibly being a murder-suicide.
But a murder-suicide it was not. Two days after the slayings, police arrested a 35-year-old San Francisco man and possible gang member named Binh Thai Luc in connection with the crime. His brother, Brian Luc, was arrested at the same time for allegedly possessing narcotics and being a felon in possession of ammunition.
To add to the outrage in the case, it was revealed Monday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that the government had attempted to deport Luc in 2006 after he served an 11-year prison sentence in San Quentin State Prison for assault with a firearm and attempted armed robbery.
Although the U.S. government tried to deport Luc, the Vietnamese government did not issue his travel documents in a timely fashion. Bound by a court ruling that limits the time ICE can detain an illegal immigrant before deportation, the U.S. government was forced to release Luc, though he did check in with ICE for the last six years.
It remains unclear how and why Luc allegedly showed up at the Howth Street house last week, though police have said the victims were not chosen at random. The ultimate reason the five people were killed will eventually be sorted out and the killer or killers hopefully brought to justice, though sense may never fully be made of the tragedy.
What is also tough to grasp is the breakdown of the immigration deportation process that allowed a convicted criminal to illegally walk the streets of this country.
There are valid arguments to both sides of the argument about immigration policy and the deportation of hardworking people who have not entered the country legally. This is not the space to debate that.
What is perfectly clear is that convicted criminals who are in this country illegally, especially those who serve time in prison for violent crimes, need to have their immigration cases handled in a different fashion.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Zadvydas v. Davis, that illegal immigrants cannot be held after 180 days if there is no foreseeable deportation date, is understandable. The government should not be in the business of indefinite detention of people.
Hindsight will not bring back the five victims of the brutal killing last week. Letting convicted criminals remain in this country illegally is not something immigration policies should allow, and local lawmakers need to pressure the federal government to revisit the rules before another tragedy strikes.