Attorney seeks to have murder charge dismissed in Pier 14 death

A Mexican national accused of fatally shooting a woman on San Francisco’s Pier 14 over the summer is seeking to have murder charges filed against him dismissed on the grounds that the shooting was accidental.

Kate Steinle, 32, was fatally shot on July 1 while walking with family members on Pier 14 in broad daylight. Within an hour of the shooting, police arrested Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant who had been deported five times and has seven prior felony convictions.

Steinle’s death has sparked debate over numerous national and local issues, including San Francisco’s sanctuary city policies, communication between local and federal law enforcement agencies, and whether tighter gun controls are needed to minimize thefts of firearms, especially those issued to law enforcement personnel.

Lopez-Sanchez has been ordered to stand trial for the murder of Steinle, but his lawyer, Chief Attorney Matt Gonzalez from the public defender’s office, said outside of court Tuesday that he filed a motion to dismiss the murder charges against Lopez-Sanchez because it appears to have been accidental.

“We know it was a ricochet. That has been proven,” Gonzalez said. “There is no dispute about that.”

In August, James Norris, a forensic science consultant and former director of the San Francisco Police Department’s forensic services division, testified that the gun Lopez-Sanchez fired was “clearly aimed at the ground,” not at Steinle, who was fatally struck after the bullet ricocheted off the cement pier.

Gonzalez said he has never seen a murder case that was based on a ricochet.

The gun used in the shooting, which was then dropped into the Bay water next to the pier, belonged to a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger who had had it stolen from his vehicle, where it had been left unsecured.

Gonzalez said Tuesday that Lopez-Sanchez, despite being an undocumented immigrant with a history of illegal entries into the U.S. and numerous felony convictions, doesn’t deserve to face the charges if the incident was accidental.

The judge put off hearing the motion Tuesday and scheduled to hear it on Jan. 29. A status update on Lopez-Sanchez’s case has been scheduled for Feb. 8, according to the public defender’s office.

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Ali Jamalian, whose life was disrupted in the wake of being charged with possession decades ago, now heads up Sunset Connect, a cannabis manufacturing company. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Green Rush: Cannabis equity program elevates unexpected entrepreneurs

‘It’s a form of reparations for those of us who were ruined by cannabis arrest’

The Giants and Dodgers face each other again following a May series the Dodgers swept; Dodgers shortstop Gavin Lux caught stealing by Giants second baseman Donovan Solano at Oracle Park on May 23 is pictured. 
Chris Victorio/
Special to The Examiner
Giants vs. Dodgers: What you need to know before this week’s huge series

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner That grinding noise you’ll hear… Continue reading

San Francisco supervisors approved zoning changes that will allow a chain grocery store to occupy the bottom floor of the 555 Fulton St. condo building. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Trader Joe’s approved for Hayes Valley, bringing long-awaited grocery store

New Seasons Market canceled plans at 555 Fulton St. citing construction delays

Shek-Woon Ng, 107, who retired at 99 from his acupuncture practice in San Francisco’s Chinatown, got a COVID-19 vaccination in June. <ins>(Courtesy Sky Link TV)</ins>
Lesson from a 107-year-old man who is now fully vaccinated

One in four seniors in S.F.’s Chinatown have not been inoculated

Most Read