Bullet that struck, killed Kate Steinle ricocheted off pier wall

Immigrant's attorney hopeful court will see shooting as 'accidental'

The single bullet that struck and killed a 32-year-old woman in broad daylight on San Francisco's waterfront last month appears to have ricocheted off a cement pier prior to hitting the victim, according to expert testimony provided Wednesday during the second day of the murder suspect's preliminary hearing.

The suspect, identified as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who goes by numerous names, including Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, attended the second day of his preliminary hearing Wednesday, this time free of the shackles that bound him in court the day before.

With the assistance of a Spanish interpreter, Lopez-Sanchez listened to the second day of testimony provided by members of the San Francisco Police Department and the San Francisco medical examiner's office.

Wednesday, Lopez-Sanchez often yawned, closed his eyes for extended periods of time, rubbed his face, and glanced around the courtroom.

Among the key points made by a firearm expert and a crime scene investigator on the stand Wednesday, before San Francisco Superior Court Judge Brendan P. Conroy, was the assertion that a single bullet was fired from a semiautomatic pistol. The bullet then ricocheted off the cement pier before continuing in an upward path, ultimately striking the victim, San Francisco resident Kathryn "Kate" Steinle as she walked on the pier with her father and a family friend at about 6:30 p.m. on July 1.

San Francisco police criminalist and ballistics expert Gerald Andrew Smith took the stand Wednesday and held up for the judge to see in court the black Sig Sauer P239 .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol, that was recovered from the San Francisco Bay near Pier 14 the day after the homicide.

Smith processed the loaded pistol, which later was discovered stolen from a Bureau of Land Management ranger during an auto burglary, and determined that one of the bullets had been fired.

He said that upon examining the one spent bullet retrieved from Steinle's body during the autopsy, it is his opinion that the signatures of the bullet matched the test bullet he fired from the pistol.

Smith noted that the bullet is damaged significantly on one side, leading him to believe that it likely ricocheted after being fired, but

before striking Steinle.

"There was no mechanical malfunction," Smith said, explaining that this firearm is commonly used by law enforcement officials because of its reliability.

San Francisco police Inspector John Evans, who was tasked with investigating the crime scene, said that on July 5, investigators located a strike mark on the cement pier.

He said that based on the approximate place on the pier where witnesses saw the suspect and where the victim was standing when she was struck, it appears the projectile struck a hard surface prior to striking the victim.

Tests run four days after the shooting, of the gouged cement where the bullet is believed to have ricocheted, turned up negative for traces of lead and copper that might have been left by a bullet.

San Francisco's chief medical examiner, Dr. Michael Hunter, said the autopsy showed Steinle suffered a fatal gunshot wound to her back and that the bullet struck her aorta and lodged in her abdomen.

Hunter said the bullet that struck Steinle was traveling in a slightly upward direction.

"It is an atypical entrance wound, which to me has a lot of significance," Hunter said on the stand. "This is anything but a classic entrance wound."

He said that due to the "rectangular" shape of the entry wound, before the bullet entered the victim's body, it either ricocheted off a hard surface, traveled through something, or there was a defect with the barrel of the gun.

He said, in his expert opinion, that it was consistent with a ricocheted bullet.

A photograph of the bullet, which normally would be cylindrical, shows that the one taken from Steinle's body is crushed and covered in striations.

A plainclothes police officer who assisted in the arrest of Lopez-Sanchez near the scene following the shooting, also took the stand Wednesday, and recounted an incident in which he stopped another person on the street prior to stopping Lopez-Sanchez.

San Francisco police Officer Joshua Fry said that before detaining Lopez-Sanchez at the intersection of Townsend Street and The Embarcadero, he and his partner had stopped someone briefly at Market Street and The Embarcadero.

The officers had not yet seen a photo of the suspect and were going off of vague suspect descriptions coming in over their radio.

The man they stopped didn't seem to be a "homeless-type person" as the suspect description indicated, and the man was let go without further questioning, Fry said.

At Tuesday's hearing, testimony from three police investigators as well as photographic evidence captured by tourists appear to place the suspect at the crime scene.

Chief attorney at the San Francisco Public Defender's Office Matt Gonzalez, who is representing Lopez-Sanchez, said Wednesday he is hopeful that the judge will see Lopez-Sanchez' actions as accidental.

Francisco Ugarte, an immigration specialist with the San Francisco Public Defender's Office, also urged the public not to "pre-judge" the

suspect "because of his immigration status."

Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, said that when someone shoots a gun in a crowded public place and kills someone it remains a murder, regardless of the person's intention.

— Bay City News Service

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40 people like this
Posted by mooseturd
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Aug 27, 2015 at 5:38 pm

mooseturd is a registered user.

Lopez-Sanchez is NOT an undocumented immigrant! He is an illegal immigrant.

6 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 27, 2015 at 8:17 pm


4 people like this
Posted by Alex
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2015 at 11:25 am

I can't imagine the pain the family must be experiencing. God Bless

Like this comment
Posted by Lopez
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Aug 29, 2015 at 12:28 pm

What can you understand moose?

4 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2015 at 6:01 pm

Actually, Pp and moose, he was a repeatedly deported, repeated guilty felon, wrongly released to our streets by the SFPD. Because SF wrongly chose to self-secede from our US criminal system, SF is now trying to protect SF ability to suck up US tax dollars, even though they made the decision to not follow US laws!! Ha! Don't follow US laws? don't get US taxpayer's money!!!! Can't have it BOTH ways. In or out????
This SF CITY employee , is creating this bullet hit cement story....on the busy pier 39 that likely has many metal or bullet crevices. They are going for 'doubt' so we won't be too hard on this poor persecuted foreign guest!! Really ??? The CITY of San Fran has no shame. The force & impact would have been significantly reduced, I would think. Merkarini's SF city police shop undoubtedly has a chest full of misdirected bullets to trick a hand-picked SF, ignorant jury. The trial must be moved and tried in any 'jurisdiction' outside San Fran. We have the right to demand that, as US citizens.
The single fact will forever the multi-deported felon DID, in fact PULL the trigger. The other excuses are irrelevant.

54 people like this
Posted by pleasanton was nice forty years ago
a resident of Castlewood
on Aug 30, 2015 at 10:12 am

He is a a illegal alien which is the correct term to use. The other terms used to describe them is meant to minimize the impact of there illegal existence in the U.S
and condone their behavior. its a really simple concept to understand, unless you can't understand english because you are a Illegal alien or are just plain stupid or like to hire illegal aliens slaves to save you money or your just plain stupid.
or maybe your just plain stupid.
belonging to a foreign country or nation.
a foreigner, especially one who is not a naturalized citizen of the country where they are living.

contrary to or forbidden by law, especially criminal law.
"illegal drugs"
synonyms: unlawful, illicit, illegitimate, criminal, felonious

61 people like this
Posted by pleasanton was nice forty years ago
a resident of Castlewood
on Aug 30, 2015 at 10:14 am

officer i did not rob the bank. It was an undocumented withdrawal
See how far that gets you.

1 person likes this
Posted by Male carrier
a resident of Livermore
on Sep 2, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Everybody knows pain and loss. The innocent young woman murdered by a gun is the problem. Not the illegal alien.

Guns kill people all the time. Police all over the United States have murdered innocent citizens. That's no different from the tragic death of a young woman?

It's not a sin. A crime. But is it a sin?

Like this comment
Posted by Male carrier
a resident of Dublin
on Sep 2, 2015 at 4:51 pm

What does robbing a bank have to do with a bullet that richocheted and hurt Ms. Steinle? If a lot of money get stonle then a person can take a long trip.

12 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 2, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

The bullet did not hurt Ms. Steinle. It killed her.

7 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Danville
on Sep 3, 2015 at 4:52 pm

No gun control is why Miss Steinle died such a horrible death. Too many so called good citizens own guns. It's time to bring in the US Army and National Guard to conduct a door to door search in all American homes and melt the dirty weapons. What an unnecessary death of a young American in the prime of her life.

4 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 3, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

Instead of the U.S. Army and National Guard violating first amendment law, send them down to the border to conduct their search, seizure and melt down.

Another alternative, invent smart guns, that know when to work for good guys, and when not to work for bad guys.

2 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 9:52 pm

@Michael Austin,

I think you mean the fourth amendment?

2 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 4, 2015 at 11:49 pm

Dan and carrier do not appreciate our American 'freedoms'. How sad they don't value or honor those freedoms. The illegal PULLED the trigger, on a crowded public pier. The gun did not search him out, he picked up and stole the gun. People kill people. Somebody has to pull the trigger, which is the crime. Dan, our government does not do search and seizure of guns or anything else. Citizens are 'free' here. The tradeoff is, they are suppose to act honorable. People who behave badly wind up in jail.

5 people like this
Posted by Daniel
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Sep 5, 2015 at 10:04 am

Where is all the concern regarding all the nasty and illegal behavior of Dennis Hastert, the Republican? He raped a boy who later died of Aids and his case has all but disappeared from the news and your minds? How many boys did he rape? A few dozen or more?

So an illegal alien accidentally kills an American woman and suddenly the locals smell blood?

2 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2015 at 10:14 am

Yes, this case has very little to do with immigration. It appears to be an accidental killing.

We need open borders.

Like this comment
Posted by Formerly Dan from BC
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Sep 6, 2015 at 1:03 pm

Formerly Dan from BC is a registered user.


Asked and answered:

Web Link

To say we need gun control is to be completely ignorant of the laws on the book.

If you were honest, (a BIG IF) you would just proclaim that you want to ban guns.

Like this comment
Posted by Ben H.
a resident of Livermore
on Sep 6, 2015 at 6:45 pm

Tragically, she is no longer alive.

I would not be surprised if the man that was arrested even understands what happened.

I'd vote for him to be put in a mental institution, not prison.

5 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2015 at 11:27 am

I am appalled at some of you commenters! This repeated felon made SEVERAL REALLY BAD DECISIONS. First to 'STEAL' the gun and next to 'PULL' the trigger on a CROWDED public pier! That bullet KILLED Kate. Quite simply, those are the FACTS. After a lifetime of bad decisions, those two bad choices were deadly. He is a menace and a threat to the well being of our society.

Like this comment
Posted by Ben H.
a resident of Livermore
on Sep 7, 2015 at 11:33 am

If you can't wait for justice to be served, the leave California. Are you the self appointed judge and jury?

What about innocent until proven guilty?

3 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2015 at 2:16 pm

NOTHING changes the FACT that he chose to open a car door, then chose to STEAL from that car, and chose to PULL the trigger of the gun. BAD PERSONAL CHOICES. Nobody made him do anything. Personal 'responsibility' derived from "RESPONSIBLE".

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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