In a lengthy and rambling jailhouse interview Sunday, the man accused of randomly shooting 32-year-old Kate Steinle at a popular San Francisco tourist spot on July 2 says that he was "wandering on Pier 14 after taking sleeping pills he found in a dumpster" when he found the gun he used to commit the crime.
In an interview with ABC7, 45-year-old Francisco Sanchez says that he wasn't aware that he'd killed Steinle, and that after he discharged the firearm he kicked the gun into the Bay.
You can watch the full interview here:
As you likely recall, 32-year-old San Francisco resident Kate Steinle was walking along the Embarcadero with her father when she abruptly collapsed, the victim of a fatal gunshot wound to the chest. Witness accounts led San Francisco Police officers to Embarcadero and Townsend, where they found Francisco Sanchez, a Mexican national who has been deported from the United States five times. Here's a brief video of his arrest:
According to Homeland Security Sanchez has a criminal history that includes seven prior felony convictions, four of them for narcotics charges. None of his previous convictions were for violent crimes.
KRON4 reports that "U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had turned Sanchez over to authorities in San Francisco on March 26 on an outstanding drug warrant."
However the San Francisco "Sheriff’s Department released Sanchez on April 15 after the San Francisco district attorney’s office declined to prosecute him for what authorities said was a decade-old marijuana possession case."
A statement sent by SF Sheriff's department spokesperson Freya Home offers more insight into the situation behind Sanchez's release:
Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez was booked into the San Francisco County Jail from federal prison on a local drug-related warrant on March 26, 2015. On March 27, 2015, Mr. Lopez-Sanchez was in San Francisco Superior Court on local charges which were dismissed by the court.
SFSD began confirming that Mr. Lopez-Sanchez’s federal prison time had been completed. At the time Mr. Lopez-Sanchez was booked, federal transportation orders reflected two conflicting release dates. SFSD verified that Mr. Lopez-Sanchez completed his federal prison sentence and was lawfully released from federal prison March 26, 2015.
Once the SFSD confirmed that Mr. Lopez-Sanchez’s federal prison time had been completed and that he had no active warrants, he was released from San Francisco County Jail on April 15, 2015.
When Mr. Lopez-Sanchez was booked into the jail, there was no active Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) warrant or judicial order of removal for him. There was an ICE request for his detention.
Once Mr. Lopez-Sanchez’s local criminal charges were dismissed, San Francisco Ordinance 130764, approved by the Board of Supervisors and signed by Mayor Ed Lee in October 2013, deemed him ineligible for extended detention. This also comports with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department Policy on immigration detainers.
Steinle's death has ignited national outrage, most loudly from presidential hopeful/fired reality TV star Donald Trump, who this weekend took the opportunity to use Steinle as an example of why “we need a wall."
The New York Daily News quotes Trump as saying "This senseless and totally preventable act of violence committed by an illegal immigrant is yet another example of why we must secure our border immediately."
SF Mayor Ed Lee swiftly fired back at Trump, with a spokesperson telling the Chron that “A woman’s life was tragically taken away, and right now Mayor Lee is focused on understanding the circumstances and facts around this tragedy and this man’s release."
"Mr. Trump’s opportunism and offensive anti-immigrant rhetoric have nothing to contribute to that effort.”
In his conversation with ABC7, Sanchez says was asked why he continued to return to the US after his many deportations. His answer: "Because I was looking for jobs in the restaurant or roofing, landscaping, or construction," and that he "knew San Francisco was a sanctuary city where he would not be pursued by immigration officials," ABC7 reports.
According to reports, Sanchez initially told police that he was shooting at seals when he killed Steinle. However, he told ABC7 that the "gun was wrapped in that T-shirt and that it went off when he picked it up."
Steinle, who was originally from Pleasanton but lived in San Francisco, worked at Medtronic, a medical device company.
"She was just a young woman starting to be in her prime and had so much to live for. And to die so senselessly. It's terrible," her father told KTVU.
Sanchez is expected to be charged today when the case is turned over to the DA's office. He is currently being held at SF County Jail.