SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The parents of a San Francisco woman who was fatally shot by a man in the country illegally said Tuesday that federal and local authorities contributed to the death of their daughter through negligence and bureaucratic bungling.
The family alleges in legal claims that a Bureau of Land Management ranger left his loaded service weapon in a backpack in plain view in his car before the weapon was stolen in June.
The semi-automatic pistol was later used in the July 1 killing of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle.
BLM spokeswoman Martha Maciel said the agency is cooperating with investigation of the shooting but she declined further comment.
The family and their attorneys filed three separate legal claims seeking unspecified damages from the BLM, San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The family said it would file lawsuits if the claims are denied.
The parents said they were filing the legal claims to prevent a similar tragedy.
“We’re here not only for Kate, we’re here for every citizen of this country who comes to San Francisco,” Jim Steinle, the father of the victim, said at a news conference at City Hall. “If you think this can’t happen to you, think again.”
Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, 45, has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge. He told police he fired the fatal shot accidentally while examining the ranger’s gun after finding it under a bench on Pier 14.
The shooting triggered a national debate over immigration after it was revealed that the Sheriff’s Department had released Lopez-Sanchez despite a federal request to detain him for possible deportation. Lopez-Sanchez was previously deported five times to his native Mexico.
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said his department was following city law when it released Lopez-Sanchez in April after prosecutors dropped old marijuana possession charges against him.
San Francisco and other cities and counties across the state have enacted policies of ignoring so-called detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold jail inmates thought to be in the country illegally for deportation proceedings.
The Steinle family claimed the sheriff violated federal laws when he issued a memo in March barring jail staff from communicating with federal immigration officials about detainer requests.
Mirkarimi has said his department requires federal officials to obtain a warrant or some other judicial notice in order for his jail to hold an inmate facing possible deportation.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kenya Briggs said Mirkarimi can’t comment on potential litigation but continues to extend his sympathy to the Steinle family for their loss.
The family also accused ICE, an agency within Homeland Security, of failing to obtain a warrant or judicial notice required by San Francisco to detain and deport Lopez-Sanchez.
ICE didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.