The family of a 23-year-old man shot and killed with a revolver stolen from a police officer filed a claim against San Francisco on Wednesday alleging that the officer unlawfully left the gun unsecured in his car.
Abel Esquivel, a San Francisco native, was shot a block away from his home in the Mission District on Aug. 15 after working a late-night shift at a local market, according to attorney Alison Cordova.
Police later arrested three suspects in the killing and discovered that the alleged murder weapon belonged to Officer Marvin Cabuntala. The .38 caliber Smith and Wesson, which was not department issued, was stolen from his personal vehicle.
Numerous people in San Francisco and the Bay Area have been killed with firearms stolen from the vehicles of law enforcement officers in recent years. Notably, Kate Steinle was killed with a gun stolen from a federal ranger’s SUV.
“Unfortunately, law enforcement officers have become brazenly comfortable with failing to properly secure their lethal weapons,” Cordova said in a statement.
The claim alleges the San Francisco and Cabuntala ran afoul of San Francisco Police Department policy and a California gun control law enacted in response to the issue.
Cordova claims they violated a 2016 state law requiring police officers not responding to an emergency to secure handguns in an unattended vehicle in a trunk or lockbox. Violators can face an infraction and fine of up to $1,o00.
SFPD policy also requires officers to secure weapons similarly. A violation of that policy is punishable by internal discipline.
Cordova said that Cabuntala left the loaded revolver unsecured in his vehicle outside of the trunk or locked container. She also claimed the SFPD did not provide officers “with sufficient locked containers to store their handguns” and training to secure their weapons.
Cordova claims Esquivel was shot as a result.
John Cote, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office, said the office has yet to receive the claim or review it.
“What’s clear is that Mr. Esquivel’s death was a tragedy, and we are heartbroken for his family,” Cote said. “But our office also has a legal responsibility to San Francisco’s taxpayers. Based on what we know now, The City is not liable for his death under the law.”
The trio arrested in connection with the killing were arraigned in September. Daniel Cruz, 18, Erick Garcia Pineda, 18, and 24-year-old Jesus Perez-Araujo pleaded not guilty to a series of felonies.
The men were said to have been on a crime spree including multiple shootings. Cordova said one of the men was wearing an Immigration and Customs Enforcement tracking device.
The men were charged with murder theft of a gun, grand theft, two counts of attempted murder and numerous counts of robbery.
The claim was brought on behalf of Mayra Perez, the mother of Esquivel. It is a precursor to a lawsuit.