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SFPD officer’s gun stolen during car break-in, used in homicide

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(Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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A San Francisco police officer’s personal gun was stolen from his car last month and used to kill a man just days later, raising questions as to whether the officer complied with local gun control laws.

The weapon was stolen from a veteran officer’s personal vehicle Aug. 12, according to police and the San Francisco Police Officers Association. Three days later, the firearm was used to shoot 23-year-old Abel Enrique Esquivel, Jr. near 26th Street and South Van Ness Avenue.

Police are not releasing the identity of the officer, but SFPOA President Martin Halloran said in a statement that the officer is a “highly decorated veteran.” Halloran also said the killing was “gang-related.”

This is the second known time in recent years that a law enforcement officer has left their firearm in a vehicle that was later burglarized in San Francisco, leading to a homicide.

In July 2015, a federal ranger’s firearm was stolen and later allegedly used in the high-profile killing of Kate Steinle. An undocumented immigrant was charged with the killing, contributing to the conversation around illegal immigration in the U.S. ahead of the election of President Donald Trump.

The homicide and the rampant car break-in problem in San Francisco also resulted in a local gun control law in late 2015. The ordinance requires drivers to secure unattended firearms in a lockbox attached to the vehicle or in the trunk of a vehicle.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who represents the Mission and served as a legislative aide to then-Supervisor David Campos when he authored the gun control law, said that the officer needs to be disciplined if he violated the law.

“The officer needs to be held accountable,” said Ronen, who does not know whether the gun was secured. “If anyone should be setting an example of how to safely store weapons in vehicles especially given a number of tragedies that have occurred… it is sworn police officers. They should be setting an example.”

San Francisco is still grappling with the epidemic of car break-ins. The number of auto burglaries is up by the 1,000s so far this year compared with 2016, the San Francisco Examiner first reported last month.

“For years, The City has just done nothing and I have had it,” Ronen said. “This is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Police Sgt. Michael Andraychak, a San Francisco Police Department spokesperson, could not confirm whether the officer secured the firearm.

“I don’t have that info and we cannot release any further information,” Andraychak said in an email, citing an open investigation into the theft. “We are not releasing the name.”

Halloran said the weapon was stolen “unbeknownst” to the officer, who is “devastated” and cooperating with a department investigation into the case.

“There were no visible signs of the burglary, and the officer did not realize that the vehicle had been broken into, nor that the firearm had been stolen,” Halloran said.

Police have made three arrests in the killing. Police arrested 18-year-old Daniel Cruz on suspicion of homicide Tuesday. On Monday, police arrested Erick Garcia Pineda, 18, and Jesus Perez-Araujo, 24, also in connection with the killing.

Cruz and Pineda are scheduled to be arraigned on murder  and other charges at the Hall of Justice at 1:30 p.m. today while Perez-Araujo will be facing multiple counts of robbery, burglary and conspiracy, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Editor’s note: This story has been edited to clarify that local law requires drivers to store firearms in a lockbox or in a locked trunk.

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