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article imageMan accused of killing SF woman on pier in July held for trial

By Nathan Salant     Sep 6, 2015 in Crime
San Francisco - There is enough evidence to try an undocumented Mexican immigrant for the shooting death of a young San Francisco woman killed while walking with her father on the waterfront in July, a judge ruled Friday.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Brendan Conroy ruled Friday that Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez will stand trial in the apparently random killing of Kate Steinle, which shocked the entire country and added even more fury to the ongoing national debate over immigration.
Lopez-Sanchez was arrested on San Francisco's waterfront shortly after Steinle was shot in an apparently unprovoked attack on a popular walking pier, as she strolled with her father and a friend, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
Steinle, a 27-year-old who had moved to the city from the Central Valley a few years earlier, was shot in the back and was rushed to San Francisco General Hospital, where she died.
There was no indication that the killing was anything but random, but the violence became a source of national outrage when it was discovered that Lopez-Sanchez had previously been deported five times but had been able to return to the United States each time.
The case even was discussed on national conservative talk shows after Lopez-Sanchez said he kept returning to San Francisco because of the city's reputation as a "sanctuary city" that did not openly cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
In fact, Lopez-Sanchez had recently been released from custody in San Francisco over the objection of federal immigration authorities when Steinle was killed.
Lopez-Sanchez was held to answer to murder and gun-possession charges after a five-day preliminary hearing in which defense attorneys argued that the killing of Steinle was not premeditated and could not support a murder charge.
Lopez-Sanchez had contended that he found the gun used to kill Steinle on a bench and had not intended to shoot when the gun went off. Statements Lopez-Sanchez made to police also suggested that he was shooting at sea lions when one of the bullets struck Steinle.
Testimony at the preliminary hearing revealed that the bullet that struck Steinle's heart had ricocheted off a hard surface before hitting her.
β€œHe said he did not have the gun prior to picking it up wrapped up and he did not know it was a gun until it fired,” Lopez-Sanchez's attorney, Matt Gonzalez, a former San Francisco supervisor and mayoral candidate, said after the hearing.
If he is found guilty, Lopez-Sanchez faces as long as life in prison if convicted of murder, 19 years if manslaughter.
A spokesman for the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, Max Szabo, said his office was "confident" that Lopez-Sanchez was guilty.
"We look forward to trial and look forward to ultimately bringing justice to Kate and her family," Szabo said.
More about San Francisco, California, Steinle, Kate, Embarcadero
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