On Monday, January 9, 2016, U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero granted the city of San Francisco’s motion to dismiss a wrongful death action by the relatives of Kathryn Steinle who was killed in the summer of July 2015 by Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal immigrant. The Steinle family had brought a suit against the city of San Francisco and the sheriff for the wrongful death of their daughter. The family claimed that the city’s sanctuary policy was responsible for not notifying the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement of her killer’s whereabouts while being held by the city and his subsequent release. The San Francisco judge ruled that the city cannot be held liable for a slaying by a man who was released by sheriff’s officials despite a request by immigration officials to hold him until they arrived.


Juan Franciscan Lopez-Sanchez, was in the United States illegally and was finishing a federal prison sentence for drug charges. He was delivered to the San Francisco Sheriff’s office to be prosecuted on another set of charges. The judge in the San Francisco case dropped charges against Lopez-Sanchez. Lopez-Sanchez was released by the Sheriff’s Department even though they were aware that he was wanted by U.S. Immigration and Custom officials. San Francisco’s sanctuary policy does not allow city workers to cooperate with federal officials to deport illegal aliens. Severally months after his release, Lopez-Sanchez allegedly shot Kathryn Steinle during a robbery. The family then filed the present suit claiming that but for the refusal by the city to turn over Lopez-Sanchez, Kathryn Steinle would be alive.


While dismissing the suit against the city, Magistrate Spero did let a negligence action go forward against Immigration and Customs based on a federal ranger negligently leaving a gun loaded in his unlocked car. The gun was stolen by Lopez-Sanchez and used to kill Steinle. The attorney for plaintiff, Frank Pitre, said the Steinle family was evaluating their options in light of the ruling.