SAN FRANCISCO — A man arrested in the seemingly random shooting of a woman at a San Francisco pier has admitted in a jailhouse interview that he shot her, but says it was an accident.
Francisco Sanchez told KGO-TV on Sunday that he was responsible for 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle’s death, but insisted that the shooting was accidental.
Speaking in a mix of Spanish and English, he said he found a gun wrapped inside a shirt and when he picked it up, he heard three shots go off. Police said witnesses heard no argument or dispute before the shooting, suggesting it was a random attack.
Steinle was walking July 1 on a busy pier in San Francisco with her father when there was a single popping sound in the air. She fell to the ground, struck by a bullet. Sanchez was found about a mile away an hour later and arrested.
The 45-year-old suspected of killing her is an undocumented immigrant, a repeat felon who has been deported five times to Mexico, according to immigration officials.
It would have been six, a federal law enforcement source told CNN, except authorities in San Francisco wanted him on a drug-related warrant.
So U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which had Sanchez in its custody in March after his release from federal prison, turned him over to San Francisco deputies. ICE said they requested an immigration detainer, asking that the agency be notified before Sanchez was released.
But San Francisco is a city that doesn’t honor such requests and the sheriff’s department released him. Freya Horne, chief legal counsel to the San Francisco County Sheriff, told CNN that he was let go because there was no legal cause to detain the suspect.
She was loving, smart, beautiful
Steinle’s father told the San Francisco Chronicle there was one pop and his daughter fell to the ground.
Video shows several people trying to help the young woman.
“She just kept saying, ‘Dad, help me, help me,'” Liz Sullivan, the victim’s mother, told KRON.
Steinle, a medical device salesperson, died at San Francisco General Hospital. Sullivan said her heart stopped twice on the way to the hospital and she died during surgery.
“She fought for her life,” Sullivan said. “They said how strong she was but they just couldn’t save her.”
Family members called her loving, smart and beautiful. Her cousin said she loved her mother and father “more than anything.”
Several of the dozen or more people on the pedestrian pier took photos of the suspect and showed them to police.
Suspect had seven felony convictions
ICE said it turned Sanchez over to San Francisco authorities on March 26 for an outstanding drug warrant. The agency requested an immigration detainer, but Horne said San Francisco officials believe that violates Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.
According to CNN affiliate KRON, the city’s policy on undocumented immigrants “states that a law enforcement official shall not detain an individual on the basis of a civil immigration detainer after that individual becomes eligible for release from custody.”
Police said Sanchez last lived in Texas, where he was on probation. ICE said Sanchez has seven felony convictions, four for drug offenses. His most recent deportation was in 2009.
He was released from federal prison in March after serving several years for felony re-entry after deportation.
Sanchez is in San Francisco County Jail and faces a homicide charge. ICE has requested another immigration detainer.