San Francisco prosecutors on Monday charged a 45-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico with the murder of a woman who was shot while strolling along the pier with her dad — a case that's sparked a national debate about immigration policy.
The District Attorney's Office said that Francisco Sanchez is expected to be arraigned Tuesday for the shooting death of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle of Pleasanton. She was struck by a bullet about 6:30 p.m. on July 1, as she was walking along a populated part of the Embarcadero.
The case is still being investigated, the office said, and more details were not immediately revealed.
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Sanchez, who federal records show has been deported five times to Mexico and has seven prior felony convictions, has since given some on-camera interviews since his arrest shortly after Steinle's death.
One of those interviews was to Telemundo, which is owned by NBC Universal, before it was cut off by Sanchez's defense attorney. During the brief conversation, Sanchez said he didn't remember much of anything about that evening because he was high on sleeping pills and marijuana.
"Well, if they say I did, well then I guess I did but I don’t remember anything because I had taken a small pill," a confused Sanchez told the reporter in Spanish. He also said he found the gun used in the shooting wrapped in a shirt or towel. When he picked up the gun, he said, it went off.
"Well, I declare myself guilty,” he told the reporter.
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump weighed in quickly, blaming Steinle's death on San Francisco's sanctuary city status, where city and county officials do not turn over immigrants to ICE if they have no other outstanding warrants. He also lashed out at the country's border.
“This senseless and totally preventable act of violence committed by an illegal immigrant is yet another example of why we must secure our border immediately," the Republican presidential hopeful said in a statement.
On the other end of the political spectrum, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said on Monday that he still supports the city's sanctuary status, but added the caveat that the policy is intended to make sure that undocumented immigrants get basic education and healthcare services, but is not intended to "protect repeat, serious and violent felons."
Sanchez had last served prison time for illegally re-entering the United States again. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice told NBC Bay Area last week that her agency had put a detainer on Sanchez, but returned him to San Francisco to serve out an old marijuana case.
San Francisco prosecutors decided not to charge him with any crime, and he was released from jail on April 15. Jail officials did not turn him over to ICE, as the agency had requested. Those detainers, San Francisco County counsel said, are treated as just that: requests.
As for Steinle's parents, they have mixed emotions about Sanchez's legal status and the politics behind it. In a previous interview with NBC Bay Area, they said that's not their focus anyway.
"It would have been so much better if he were gone. Absolutely," said Steinle's mother, Liz Sullivan.
"But we're not dwelling on that,", her father, Jim Steinle said, adding that nothing will bring his daughter back. "It's a non-issue."
NBC Bay Area's Cheryl Hurd and Rhea Mahbubani contributed to this report.