Elizabeth Sullivan and Jim Steinle of Livermore, the parents of the 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle who was shot and killed last July while walking with her father at Pier 14, have filed a lawsuit in federal court that names the Bureau of Land Management, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and former San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, accusing them of culpability in her death. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
The couple announced that they would file a legal claim against city and federal officials in September, and according to a release, they have "exhausted the legal administrative claims process." The new lawsuit will likely assert that those three parties could have prevented Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a 45-year-old Mexican national, from firing the weapon that killed Steinle.
Lopez-Sanchez, as you likely know by now, had been deported five times, reentering the US as many time, and after a stint in federal prison for such illegal reentry, federal officials handed him off to San Francisco in March. Here, he faced a marijuana charge. That was dropped. Per a common understanding of San Francisco's Sanctuary City Policy, underscored by a memo from then-Sheriff Mirkarimi, his deputies did not alert the feds when Lopez-Sanchez was released from custody. Lopez-Sanchez says he found the gun — he had taken, he claims, sleeping pills he found in a dumpster, and he isn't sure how — and according to his defense he discharged it accidentally, the bullet ricocheting to strike Steinle. A judge ruled in September that Lopez-Sanchez would stand trial on murder and weapons charges.
The suit from Steinle's parents names the Bureau of Land Management because the gun in question had been stolen, days prior to its use, from one of that agency's officers in a car burglary, a theft with which Lopez-Sanchez is not believed to be connected. Finally, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement are named in the lawsuit because, as the suit maintains, the federal agency was aware of San Francisco's policy and should not have transferred him to the city.
"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 of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, the law firm representing the Steinle family, said according to a release.