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Suspect describes how fatal San Francisco shooting unfolded

The man suspected of fatally shooting a woman at a popular tourist spot in San Francisco last week, a five-time deportee with a criminal record, has spoken to a reporter about how the shooting unfolded, where the gun came from and why he kept returning to the U.S.

Francisco Sanchez, 45, told the Bay Area’s ABC7 News that he accidentally killed 32-year-old Kate Steinle at Pier 14 on Wednesday after taking sleeping pills he’d found, the station reported.

In an interview, Sanchez spoke of finding the gun on the ground near a bench. The station played only a few short clips of what it said was a 45-minute interview, but according to its report, Sanchez said that he found the gun wrapped in a T-shirt and that the weapon went off three times when he picked it up.

“Suddenly I hear the ‘poom, poom,’ three times,” Sanchez said, holding up three fingers.

He said he then kicked the gun off the pier and walked away, unaware that anyone had been shot until he was arrested later that day, the station reported.

“I’m feeling sorry for everybody,” he said in the interview.

Sanchez, who struggled to express himself in English, spoke clearly while explaining why he was in San Francisco at all: He was seeking work — a restaurant, landscaping or construction job, he said.

Steinle, the victim, had recently moved to San Francisco. She received a gunshot wound to the upper body and was taken to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Sanchez is being held in San Francisco County jail on suspicion of murder. He is to be arraigned Monday, according to a sheriff’s deputy.

Sanchez has seven felony convictions and has been deported five times, most recently in 2009, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Friday. Four of the convictions involved narcotics charges.

Sanchez’s presence in the U.S. has sparked fierce debate over immigration policies.

ICE turned Sanchez over to San Francisco police in March on an outstanding drug warrant, agency spokeswoman Virginia Kice said last week. Immigration officials issued a detainer at that time, requesting to be notified before his release so arrangements could be made to take custody.

“The detainer was not honored,” Kice said in a statement.

San Francisco allows such holds only for people with violent records. Sanchez had no major violent crime convictions in recent years, according to the San Francisco Sheriff's Department.

The county Sheriff's Department announced last year that it would honor detainer requests if a judge had vetted them or a warrant was obtained. ICE did not seek a court order, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said.

Times staff writers Rosanna Xia, Louis Sahagun and Emily Alpert Reyes contributed to this report.

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