The .40-caliber handgun that authorities said killed 32-year-old Kate Steinle had been stolen in June from a car belonging to an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reported citing an unnamed source.
Steinle was shot July 1 as she walked with her father along Pier 14, a popular viewing platform for tourists just south of the iconic Ferry Building, and died two hours later at San Francisco General Hospital.
The attack appears to have been completely random.
San Francisco police found and arrested Juan Francisco Sanchez, a Mexican immigrant, along the waterfront about a mile south of the pier, and charged him with murder.
Sanchez, 45, who had previously been deported on five occasions but returned to the United States each time, pleaded innocent to all charges at his arraignment on Tuesday.
Sanchez reportedly told authorities that he found the gun along the shore and was shooting at sea lions when Steinle was struck.
The suspect also told Spanish-language television that he did not remember anything about the shooting because he had been taking sleeping pills and smoking marijuana on the night Steinle was killed.
The gun had been reported stolen in June from a car parked in San Francisco’s downtown area, other sources told the newspaper.
The gun was not the agent’s official agency weapon, the newspaper said.
“They say I attacked someone,” Sanchez told the Telemundo TV station in Spanish in a brief interview at San Francisco County Jail, the newspaper said.
“If that’s what they say, I say it’s good because I’ve never been the type to contradict,” Sanchez said.
Federal authorities say they had requested Sanchez be returned to their custody prior to his release from San Francisco jail on a marijuana arrest in April, but that city authorities declined to.
The case has sparked renewed interest in and concern about San Francisco’s highly touted status as a “sanctuary” city that does not voluntarily cooperate with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Sanchez said he took that into account in choosing San Francisco to return to each time he entered the United States illegally, KNBC-TV reported this week.