Court rules Steinle's parents can sue federal government, but not San Francisco or former sheriff

Former Pleasanton resident 'Kate' Steinle killed July 1, 2015 on Bay pier

The parents of a San Francisco woman who was allegedly fatally shot by an undocumented immigrant in 2015 can proceed with a lawsuit against the federal government, a U.S. magistrate judge has ruled.

But Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero said in a decision Friday that the parents of Kathryn "Kate" Steinle can't sue the city of San Francisco or former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

Spero dismissed the city and Mirkarimi as defendants in the wrongful death lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco in May by parents James Steinle and Elizabeth Sullivan.

Kate Steinle, 32, who grew up in Pleasanton and had recently moved to San Francisco, was walking on the city's Pier 14 with her father in the early evening of July 1, 2015, when a she was hit in the back with a bullet.

Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a Mexican citizen with a history of drug convictions and deportations, was arrested an hour later and charged with killing her with a gun that had been stolen four days earlier from the car of a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger.

He is due to go on trial in San Francisco Superior Court next month on a charge of second-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty and his defense lawyer has said he likely found the gun on the pier and discharged it accidentally.

The lawsuit alleged the city and Mirkarimi were negligent in failing to inform federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials when Lopez-Sanchez was released from San Francisco jail two and one-half months before the shooting.

But Spero said that while a U.S. law prohibits local governments from restricting information given to ICE about an individual's citizenship

or immigration status, no federal or state laws require disclosure of a release date.

"No law required the Sheriff's Department to share Lopez-Sanchez's release date with ICE, nor did any law forbid Mirkarimi establishing a policy against such cooperation," Spero wrote.

ICE, which had issued a detainer request for notification of Lopez-Sanchez's release, already knew his immigration status, the magistrate said.

Spero said, however, that the parents' allegation against the Bureau of Land Management was a viable legal claim, entitling the family to further proceedings in a summary judgment hearing or a trial.

That claim is that the unidentified ranger, by leaving the loaded weapon in a backpack in an unattended car, violated a duty to secure the

handgun properly.

"A handgun is indisputably capable of inflicting serious injury and damage -- as a deadly weapon, that is its very purpose," Spero wrote.

"Leaving a gun loaded makes that capability for harm readily accessible in the same way as leaving the key in the ignition of a vehicle," he said.

No dates have been set thus far for further proceedings in the case.

A lawyer for the parents was not immediately available for comment.

John Cote, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said, "As a city, we have grieved over the family's heartbreaking loss."

"But the issue was whether the city and taxpayers could be held liable for the actions of a former inmate. Under well-established law, they can't. The court's ruling reflected that," Cote said.

The shooting intensified national controversy over San Francisco's sanctuary city policy and Mirkarimi's interpretation of that policy, which

included a March 2015 memo prohibiting sheriff's employees from giving inmate release dates to federal officials.

Lopez-Sanchez had been convicted of seven felonies, including four drug crimes, and had been deported five times.

He was placed in San Francisco jail on a previous

marijuana-selling charge in late March 2015 after completing a nearly four-year federal sentence for illegal re-entry following deportation. When the marijuana charge was dropped, he was released from the city jail.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

— Bay City News Service


32 people like this
Posted by sanity
a resident of Amador Estates
on Jan 10, 2017 at 9:10 am

Bull...everybody involved who choose to ignore the law should be prosecuted to the fullest.

19 people like this
Posted by AR15
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jan 10, 2017 at 10:09 am

AR15 is a registered user.

This is a shame and a sin, because it is especially the sheriff and the SF city council/supervisors that need to be taught a lesson here. Kate's Law is passing soon, followed by the defunding of "sanctuary cities". It is also disgusting that the State has hired Eric Holder, the disgraced AG behind the Fast and Furious anti-gun fiasco, to sue the Feds to stop much needed changes by the new administration. This will cost taxpayer's a ton of money.

23 people like this
Posted by JohnS
a resident of Del Prado
on Jan 10, 2017 at 10:17 am

Cut off federal funds to San Francisco.

19 people like this
Posted by brad
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 10, 2017 at 10:20 am

Another real good reason to eliminate any federal funding to all sactuary cities.

28 people like this
Posted by Scott Walsh
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2017 at 10:22 am

I agree, defund S.F. and other Sanctuary Cities. Wish Swalwell talked less and produced more. He voted against Kate's Law. Lost all respect.

14 people like this
Posted by Charlie Brown
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 10, 2017 at 10:32 am

San Francisco will never learn any lessons unless they are directly punished. The Court's decision is like punishing the kid next door when it was your kid that broke your window.

2 people like this
Posted by Joyce
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 11, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Joyce is a registered user.

Everyone is omitting the detail about the way this accident happened. This was not a deliberate act. The unfortunate person who pulled the trigger did not aim the gun and plan to shoot anyone. It has been proven is was an accident. The fact that a loaded gun was lying around on the ground is the bigger problem surely?

If a 5 year old kid had picked up the gun and the same result occurred, would everyone be yelling that the city of San Francisco is to blame?

4 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jan 11, 2017 at 4:04 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.


While it is true that a DEFENSE witness has CLAIMED that it was an accident does not make it a "fact".

The "fact" is this case is being prosecuted as a MURDER: Web Link

Safe link to The Mercury News

Try again, Joyce.

Like this comment
Posted by Joyce
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 11, 2017 at 7:19 pm

Joyce is a registered user.

Thanks for the link DKHSK. From the article:
Lopez-Sanchez fired one shot. The bullet ricocheted off the pier deck, hitting Steinle in the back as she walked with her father.

2 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jan 11, 2017 at 11:11 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.


"Lopez fired one shot".

So you admit that he took his finger and pressed the trigger of that gun?

Well...then I guess you agree with me.


1 person likes this
Posted by SHale
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 12, 2017 at 7:51 am

SHale is a registered user.

1st degree murder would be a stretch, for sure. all other charges and degrees, on the table.

2 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jan 12, 2017 at 1:11 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

The criminal illegal immigrant is not being charged with 1st degree murder, he's being charged with 2nd degree murder.

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

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