SFPD divers search the waters south of Pier 14 and come up with an object they placed into a plastic box Thursday, July 2, 2015. The search followed an early evening fatal shooting at Pier 14 on Wednesday. (Mike Koozmin/2015 S.F. Examiner)

SFPD officer seen threatening men with deportation was involved in Steinle case

A San Francisco police officer seen on camera in a recent news report threatening men with deportation in direct violation of city sanctuary laws was at the center of the high-profile arrest of a Mexican citizen accused of fatally shooting Kathryn Steinle in 2015.

Officer Joshua Fry, who has been on the force for about a decade, was seen on camera in San Francisco’s UN Plaza threatening to deport Asian and Latino men, according to an ABC7 news report that aired May 5. The statements were allegedly made earlier this year.

“Wait ’til we get [immigration services] involved in here, too, it’s going to be awesome. We’re going to ship everybody back to their own country,” Fry said in the news report.

Fry may have violated city policy that bars officers from enforcing immigration laws or asking about immigration status, and the incident has sparked an investigation by Internal Affairs.

Fry could not be reached for comment, but a police spokesperson said in a statement that the Police Department strives to uphold The City’s sanctuary policy. 

“As a result of the video taken near UN Plaza and aired by a local TV affiliate, the Internal Affairs Division has initiated an investigation,” Sgt. Michael Andraychak said. “The San Francisco Police Department has consistently emphasized that city ordinance and department policy prohibits the use of city resources to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.”

Fry was one of the officers who spotted and arrested the man who allegedly killed Steinle, a 32-year-old San Francisco resident, on Pier 14 on July 1, 2015.

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez was allegedly holding a gun that went off, and the bullet ricocheted off the pier and struck Steinle. He was later charged with murder for the shooting death of Steinle.

In an Aug. 26, 2015, preliminary hearing, Fry testified about Lopez-Sanchez’s arrest, which took place around 6:30 p.m. near The Embarcadero and Townsend Street when Fry and his partner — both in plainclothes — spotted a man fitting the description of the shooter.

“I pointed my finger and said, ‘That’s him,’” Fry said in court, who then reportedly got out of the car and pulled his weapon. Just then, another officer had also spotted the suspect. After he’d been cuffed and searched, Fry put him into a radio car.

“Our piece of the pie was actually pretty small,” he said at the preliminary hearing.

Politics

The case sparked a battle within The City over who was at fault for Lopez-Sanchez’s release and whether that played a part in Steinle’s death.

Lopez-Sanchez had been transported to The City on a years-old minor drug possession warrant for which the charges were dropped. He was released about a month before Steinle’s death.

Immigration authorities had asked for him to be turned over to their custody, but then-Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi refused to honor that request, citing city law and court rulings that barred him from turning over a nonviolent inmate to Immigration and Customs Enforcement without an arrest warrant or court order.

The case also thrust The City’s sanctuary policy into President Donald Trump’s campaign, where Trump highlighted the death as a reason to crack down on undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

S.F. Examiner Staff Writer Michael Barba contributed to this story.

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