San Francisco sheriff defends release of immigrant suspect

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San Francisco Sheriff Defends Immigrant Release

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco's sheriff on Friday staunchly defended the release of a Mexican immigrant who later was accused of randomly killing a young woman, saying federal authorities failed to provide legal basis to continue to hold him.

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi told reporters at a news conference that his department followed procedure and local laws when they released Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez in April after a years-old arrest warrant on marijuana charges against him was dismissed.

Sanchez is accused of murder in the shooting death a 32-year-old woman July 1 while she was walking along a city pier with her father.

Sanchez was in the U.S. illegally and had been deported five times.

After he was arrested in the death of Kathryn Steinle it was revealed he had seven felony drug convictions.

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San Francisco sheriff defends release of immigrant suspect
Francisco Sanchez, right, is lead into the courtroom by San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, left, and Assistant District Attorney Diana Garciaor, center, for his arraignment at the Hall of Justice on Tuesday, July 7, 2015 in San Francisco. Prosecutors have charged the Mexican immigrant with murder in the waterfront shooting death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle. (Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool)
Francisco Sanchez walks into the court for his arraignment at the Hall of Justice on Tuesday, July 7, 2015, in San Francisco. Prosecutors have charged the Mexican immigrant with murder in the waterfront shooting death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle. (Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool)
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, left, talks to members of the media after Francisco Sanchez' arraignment Tuesday, July 7, 2015, in San Francisco. Prosecutors have charged Sanchez, a Mexican immigrant, with murder in the waterfront shooting death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 07: San Francisco public defender chief attorney Matt Gonzalez speaks with reporters after the arraignment for Francisco Sanchez on July 7, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Francisco Sanchez pleaded not guilty to charges that he shot and killed 32 year-old Kathryn Steinle as she walked on Pier 14 in San Francisco with her father last week. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Francisco Sanchez, center, is lead out of the courtroom by San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, right, and Assistant District Attorney Diana Garciaor, left, after his arraignment at the Hall of Justice on Tuesday, July 7, 2015, in San Francisco. Prosecutors have charged the Mexican immigrant with murder in the waterfront shooting death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle. (Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool)
San Francisco Public Defenders Jeff Adachi, left, and Matt Gonzalez, right, talks to members of the media after Francisco Sanchez' arraignment Tuesday, July 7, 2015, in San Francisco. Prosecutors have charged Sanchez, a Mexican immigrant, with murder in the waterfront shooting death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 06: Father Cameron Faller, associate pastor at the Church of the Epiphany, conducts a prayer service at the site where 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle was killed on July 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California. According to police, Steinle was shot and killed by Francisco Sanchez as she walked with her father on San Francisco's Pier 14 on July 1. Sanchez had been previously deported five times. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Father Cameron Faller, second left, of Restorative Justice Ministry conducts a vigil for Kathryn Steinle, Monday, July 6, 2015, on Pier 14 in San Francisco. Steinle was gunned down while out for an evening stroll at Pier 14 with her father and a family friend on Wednesday, July 1. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Flowers and a candle lay on the ground following a vigil for Kathryn Steinle, Monday, July 6, 2015, on Pier 14 in San Francisco. Steinle was gunned down while out for an evening stroll at Pier 14 with her father and a family friend on Wednesday, July 1. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
A mourner lays down flowers following a vigil for Kathryn Steinle, Monday, July 6, 2015, on Pier 14 in San Francisco. Steinle was gunned down while out for an evening stroll at Pier 14 with her father and a family friend on Wednesday, July 1. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Beautiful woman, Kate Steinle, the victim of shooting on Pier 14 in #SF. Her parents speak to us at 5 @KTVU http://t.co/RMZkAwGwdM
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - In this undated mugshot photo posted July 2, 2015 by the San Francisco Police Department, Francisco Sanchez is shown after his arrest on homicide charges. The 45-year-old Sanchez is being held in the shooting death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle, who was walking with her father along the waterfront July 1 when the shooting occurred., according to published reports. (Photo by San Francisco Police Department via Getty Images)
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi gestures during an interview Monday, July 6, 2015, in San Francisco. Mirkarimi has defended the release of Francisco Sanchez from jail on April 15, who is now accused in the shooting death of a woman at a popular tourist site. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Father Cameron Faller of Restorative Justice Ministry drops holy water during a vigil for Kathryn Steinle, Monday, July 6, 2015, on Pier 14 in San Francisco. Steinle was gunned down while out for an evening stroll at Pier 14 with her father and a family friend on Wednesday, July 1. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
A U.S. Coast Guard boat patrols by Pier 14 following a vigil for Kathryn Steinle, Monday, July 6, 2015, on Pier 14 in San Francisco. Steinle was gunned down while out for an evening stroll at Pier 14 with her father and a family friend on Wednesday, July 1. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
Father Cameron Faller, of Restorative Justice Ministry, answers questions before a vigil for Kathryn Steinle, Monday, July 6, 2015, on Pier 14 in San Francisco. Steinle was shot and killed on Wednesday, July 1st on Pier 14. Francisco Sanchez was arrested for the shooting. (AP Photo/Beck Diefenbach)
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It also became clear that the San Francisco Sheriff's Office, citing city policy on immigrants with no violent criminal background, had released Sanchez despite a federal immigration request asking them to hold him until U.S. authorities could take him into custody for deportation proceedings.

Sanchez has been in police custody since his most recent arrest. He has said he found the gun under a bench and that it fired accidentally.

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi is calling for review of how his department and federal authorities communicate. "A tragedy of this dimension requires us all to step back and look at our policies," he said.

"Our policy will continue to reflect the spirit and letter of the law," he added.

The slaying has brought heavy criticism down on the city from politicians of both parties and become the latest flashpoint in the debate over how to deal with illegal immigration.

Groups advocating stricter immigration enforcement are hoping the episode leads to closer collaboration between local law enforcement and immigration authorities. In recent years, California, Connecticut, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia have joined 293 cities and counties to restrict cooperation, according to the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc.

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