San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi speaks at a press conference about the circumstances that led up to the April 15, 2015 release of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the man in custody for the shooting death of a woman on San Francisco's pier 14 on July 1, 2015. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi speaks at a press conference about the circumstances that led up to the April 15, 2015 release of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the man in custody for the shooting death of a woman on San Francisco's pier 14 on July 1, 2015. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

Sheriff defends release of alleged Pier 14 shooter, blames feds for failing to deport

San Francisco’s embattled sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi, defended his department’s release of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the undocumented immigrant who allegedly shot and killed 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, saying Friday that federal immigration officials are at fault for not deporting him before he came to San Francisco.

“Mr. Lopez-Sanchez met [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s] highest priority due to prior felony convictions and prior deportations, however, as I contend and will continue to do so, ICE failed to obtain and provide a warrant or judicial order for such deportation proceedings,” said Mirkarimi at a press conference meant to set the record straight on his department’s actions.

Mirkarimi said he’d met with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials twice this year and reiterated The City’s Due Process for All Ordinance that prevents ICE holds in most cases because such holds violate the Fourth Amendment.

Federal immigration authorities, said Mirkarimi, should answer questions about why they had not deported Lopez-Sanchez before he was released on a 20 year-old warrant to San Francisco in March.

The Sheriff’s Department, he added, had never before been contacted by federal authorities about the bench warrant that brought Lopez-Sanchez to San Francisco. In fact, ICE had deported him in the past instead.

In the wake of the July 1 shooting on Pier 14 along the Embarcadero, Mayor Ed Lee and others have aimed much blame for Steinle’s death on the suspect’s release by the sheriff, even saying recently in a radio interview that Mirkarimi’s office should have called ICE to let them know when Lopez-Sanchez was to be released.

Blame has also been cast on the federal Bureau of Land Management because the gun used in the crime was stolen from one of their agent’s cars — a theft that was not investigated by police until after Steinle’s death.

In a press conference Friday morning, where the sheriff read a chronology of Lopez-Sanchez’s movements to a combative press corps to correct what he called “distortions,” Mirkarimi defended his department, saying that a call to ICE as the mayor suggests is a violation of the very law he signed.

Lopez-Sanchez, who has no violent felony convictions, was released from federal prison into San Francisco Sheriff’s Department custody March 26 after serving time for immigration violations.

The department took him into custody on a 20-year-old, $5,000 bench warrant, which they are legally obliged to honor. The marijuana charge against Lopez-Sanchez was dropped by a judge March 27. Still, Lopez-Sanchez was held for roughly two more weeks as San Francisco jail staff checked to make sure he was not wanted on other warrants and had served all of his time.

In the meantime, ICE had requested Lopez-Sanchez be held for immigration violations. But, as is policy and city law, Lopez-Sanchez was not held for ICE since he had no violent felony convictions nor was he facing violent felony charges.

ICE officials maintain that the Sheriff’s Department’s failure to hold or notify them of Lopez-Sanchez’s release resulted in his presence on city streets and finally Steinle’s death.

Mirkarimi recommend that ICE use an administrative law judge to sign warrants when they would like The City to hold them, so that their due process rights are not breached.
CitizenCrimeFrancisco SanchezIllegal ImmigrationImmigration PolicyKathryn SteinleMayor Ed LeeMexicanPier 14Ross MirkarimiSan Francisco CrimeSan Francisco EmbarcaderoSan Francisco Shootingsanctuary cityundocumented

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