San Francisco sheriff defends release of immigrant suspect

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.

San Francisco pier slaying
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San Francisco sheriff defends release of immigrant suspect
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)
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)
Beautiful woman, Kate Steinle, the victim of shooting on Pier 14 in #SF. Her parents speak to us at 5 @KTVU
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)

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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