By Curtis Skinner
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A convicted felon who had been deported from the United States to Mexico five times was charged on Monday with murder in the shooting of a woman last week at a tourist area in San Francisco.
Francisco Sanchez, 45, was arrested for the shooting of Kathryn Steinle, 32, last Wednesday evening. The case drew national attention after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during the weekend used the killing to decry U.S.-Mexico border security.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office said in a statement that Sanchez would be arraigned on Tuesday.
Immigration officials said Sanchez was released from federal prison in March after a felony re-entry conviction. He was transferred to the custody of the San Francisco County Sheriff’s Office on a drug arrest warrant and federal officials asked to be notified prior to his release.
The Sheriff’s Office said the charges were dismissed and since there was no active warrant or judicial order for Sanchez’s removal, the city’s policy deemed Sanchez “ineligible for extended detention” and he was freed.
Sanchez has a long criminal history including seven felonies and has been deported to Mexico five times, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Earlier on Monday, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee expressed concern about Sanchez’s release into the community and directed authorities to look at the steps they took with Sanchez leading up to the shooting.
“All agencies involved, federal and local, need to conduct quick, thorough and objective reviews of their own departmental policies and the decisions they made in this case,” Lee said in a statement.
He defended his city’s so-called sanctuary policy as one that protects immigrant communities and that should not shield criminals.
Dozens of such sanctuary cities across the United States limit the assistance they provide to federal immigration authorities aiming to apprehend or deport individuals.
An anonymous law enforcement source told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper that Sanchez was shooting at sea lions and struck Steinle by accident.
In a jail house interview with broadcaster KGO-TV, Sanchez admitted to the shooting, saying he had just taken several sleeping pills and the gun went off when he picked it up.
Trump, who drew heavy criticism for describing immigrants from Mexico to the United States as drug-runners and rapists during the launch of his presidential bid last month, on Saturday said the shooting was a “totally preventable act of violence committed by an illegal immigrant.”
(Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Bill Trott)