Gunman was facing deportation when he shot popular community volunteer, police say
Federal agents were tracking a young immigrant who was facing deportation when he fatally shot a popular community volunteer during a robbery in San Francisco, authorities said Friday.
The slaying occurred on Aug. 15, four days after sheriff’s investigators say 18-year-old Erick Garcia-Pineda stole the murder weapon from the personal car of a San Francisco police officer.
The case has stirred memories of the 2015 killing of a young woman on a San Francisco pier by a Mexican national who had been deported five times. A gun stolen from a law enforcement officer was also used in that shooting.
The shooting also ignited a national debate on “sanctuary city” policies that bar local police from cooperating with federal immigration authorities unless they are seeking suspects convicted or charged with violent crimes.
Authorities say Garcia-Pineda had been detained by immigration authorities in December and released from custody in April pending deportation. An immigration judge required him to wear an ankle monitor and routinely check in with immigration officials.
He failed to show up for his August appointment, said James Schwab, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
His ankle monitor was removed when he was arrested on Sept. 3 by sheriff’s deputies on misdemeanor battery charges. ICE says the Sheriff’s Department ignored a request to block his release from jail that day.
Investigators later connected Garcia-Pineda to the killing of 23-year-old Abel Esquivel during a robbery.
ICE agents also asked the local sheriff in May to detain a second man arrested locally who is also charged with Esquivel’s murder, Jesus Perez-Araujo, 24.
San Francisco police arrested Perez-Araujo for possession of marijuana and illegal possession of brass knuckles. He was charged only with misdemeanor possession of brass knuckles, court records showed.
Esquivel volunteered at the Central American Resource Center, which provides legal help to low-income Latino clients and other social services.
“We were shocked to hear the weapon belonged to a police officer,” said Lariza Dugan Cuadra, executive director of the center.
Martin Halloran, president of the police officers’ union, said the officer did not know his vehicle had been broken into until after the shooting.
“There were no visible signs of the burglary,” Halloran said. “The officer, a highly decorated veteran, is devastated.”
In the 2015 killing, Kate Steinle was shot as she walked on a pier crowded with tourists.
The San Francisco sheriff had released José Inez García Zárate from jail several weeks before the Steinle shooting despite a detainer request from ICE.
Zárate acknowledges shooting the gun but said it fired accidentally. He has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.
Jury selection for his trial begins Oct. 2 while the debate over sanctuary cities continues.
The Trump administration opposes the policy and has threatened to withhold federal funds to those cities, prompting lawsuits. A federal judge on Friday barred the administration from withholding funding until a lawsuit in Chicago is resolved.
California’s “sanctuary state” bill that would limit police cooperation with federal immigration authorities cleared a major hurdle Friday when it was approved by the state Assembly.
The Senate was scheduled to give final approval to the legislation before lawmakers wrap up the legislative year late Friday or early Saturday.
San Francisco police say Garcia-Pineda and two other young men began driving around the city looking for robbery victims after they stole the gun on Aug. 11.
A police bulletin from 2015 said officers should keep a gun with them when they are in public and that if they are forced to leave a firearm briefly in an unattended vehicle, they must secure the weapon in the locked trunk where it cannot be seen.
Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.
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