Family Sues Federal Agencies After Alleged Murder by Undocumented Migrant

The family of Kate Steinle, the woman who was allegedly shot and killed by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant, on a San Francisco pier last summer, has filed a lawsuit against two federal agencies and a San Francisco sheriff for not preventing her death. Lopez-Sanchez is also named in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in a federal court in San Francisco, seeks to hold the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the City and County of San Francisco and Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi of the San Francisco’s Sheriff’s Department for providing “the means and opportunity for a repeat drug felon to secure a gun and kill” the 31-year-old, the complaint reads. The complaint goes on “Kate’s death was both foreseeable and preventable had the law enforcement agencies, officials and/or officers involved simply followed the laws… which they swore to uphold.”

The case became notorious at the time due to the suspect’s immigration status and the ongoing debate over sanctuary cities like San Francisco, which only notify ICE about suspected undocumented immigrants only in the case of violent crimes.

“The Steinle Family hopes that their actions today will serve to highlight the lax enforcement of gun safety regulations among the law enforcement agencies involved and bureaucratic confusion so that this will not happen to others,” said Frank Pitre of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, the law firm representing the Steinle family.

Steinle was killed on July 1 while walking with her father on Pier 14 of San Francisco’s picturesque Embarcadero waterfront when Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant and career drug felon, allegedly shot her with a .40 caliber government-issued firearm, according to the complaint.

On March 26 of that year, Sanchez finished serving a 46-month sentence at a Los Angeles federal prison and was released to SFSD custody, the complaint said.

That same month, ICE had issued a memo creating an official policy to eliminate all communication regarding undocumented immigrants in “direct contravention” with federal and state law, according to the complaint. Despite this memo, ICE specifically asked the SFSD to be notified of Sanchez’s release.

Sanchez was released the next month, and no notification was provided to ICE, according to the complaint. In January, he pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, the Associated Press reported. At the time, his public defender, Matt Gonzalez, said the charge was too harsh because the shooting was inadvertent.