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Pleasanton native's family sues SF, federal authorities over shooting death

Lawyer: Suit highlights 'lax enforcement of gun safety regulations' and 'bureaucratic confusion'

The family of Kate Steinle, a Pleasanton native who was shot and killed on San Francisco's Pier 14 last July, filed a federal lawsuit Friday against city and federal officials alleging that a series of policy failures and negligent acts led to her death.

The lawsuit, which names the city of San Francisco, former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, alleges that officials allowed Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant with a history of drug offenses, to go free and obtain the gun that killed her.

"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," Frank Pitre, the lawyer representing the Steinle family, said in a statement Friday.

Steinle, a 32-year-old Pleasanton native who had recently moved to San Francisco, was shot on July 1 while walking with family members on Pier 14. Police arrested Lopez-Sanchez, who had been deported five times and had seven prior felony convictions, within an hour of the shooting.

The shooting set off a national furor over San Francisco's Sanctuary City policies after it was revealed that the Sheriff's Office had released Lopez-Sanchez without notifying immigration officials.

Mirkarimi in March 2015 had sent out a memo forbidding all communications with immigration officials, in a move that Friday's lawsuit alleges exceeded his authority and city policies.

San Francisco's Sanctuary City and Due Process for All policies, intended to encourage communication between immigrant communities and local law enforcement, forbid the use of city and county resources for assisting federal immigration authorities but allow for some communication with them under limited circumstances.

Inspired in part by the uproar over Steinle's death, the Board of Supervisors voted this week to update that policy with clarifications about when such communications are allowed.

The lawsuit also faults federal immigration officials for failing to take a more active role in detaining Lopez-Sanchez, despite knowing of San Francisco's policy.

The Bureau of Land Management is named because the gun used in the shooting was stolen from the car of a BLM agent who had left it unsecured in a backpack.

That incident and other recent law enforcement gun thefts from vehicles inspired Supervisor David Campos to introduce legislation, approved in February, requiring all guns stored in cars to be secured in lockboxes.

Lopez-Sanchez has been charged with murder in Steinle's death, but defense attorneys have indicated they are likely to argue the shooting was the result of an accidental ricochet.

— Bay City News Service

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