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Slain woman’s parents focused on healing, not suspect’s deportations

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SAN FRANCISCO » The parents of a woman killed at a San Francisco pier say they are focused on healing and not on the fact that the man accused of shooting her has been deported five times.

Kathryn Steinle’s father, Jim Steinle, told reporters he hopes justice reigns in the case against Francisco Sanchez, 45.

"We’re not dwelling on that," he said Friday, referring to the fact that Sanchez could have been deported months ago. "That’s not going to bring Kate back."

Kathryn Steinle was shot Wednesday evening as she walked with her father and a family friend at Pier 14, one of the busiest attractions in the city.

Police arrested Sanchez about an hour after the seemingly random slaying of the 32-year-old San Francisco resident.

Sanchez has seven felony convictions and has been deported five times to his native Mexico, most recently in 2009, federal officials said.

Steinle’s mother, Liz Sullivan, called her daughter’s death "a terrible travesty."

"It would have been so much better, of course, if he (had been deported)," Sullivan told reporters. "Everybody is trying to put the political spin on it. But it happened, and there is no taking it back."

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had turned Sanchez over to authorities in San Francisco on March 26 on an outstanding drug warrant.

The Sheriff’s Department released Sanchez on April 15 after the San Francisco district attorney’s office declined to prosecute him for what authorities said was a decade-old marijuana possession case.

ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the agency had issued a detainer for Sanchez, requesting notification of his release and that he stay in custody until immigration authorities could pick him up. The detainer was not honored, she said.

Freya Horne, counsel for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, said Friday that federal detention requests are not sufficient to hold someone. Under the city’s sanctuary ordinance, people in the country illegally aren’t handed over to immigration officials unless there’s a warrant for their arrest.

Local officials checked and found none. ICE could have issued an active warrant if it wanted the city to keep Sanchez jailed, Horne said.

On Saturday, a bouquet of sunflowers and another of red roses laid at a gate blocking access to Pier 14, a popular place for people who want to get a close-up view of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Tourists, most unaware of the shooting, sat on nearby benches and on an art installation platform, soaking up the sun while others in U.S. flag T-shirts and hats walked by.

San Francisco resident Manuel Gabriel, 50, was taking a stroll with a friend when the pair stopped to look at the pier after hearing what happened on the news. "It’s sad to hear someone so young lost their life in an act of insanity," said Gabriel, who said he came to San Francisco from El Salvador 25 years ago.

About the controversy surrounding the city’s sanctuary ordinance, Gabriel said it’s not a question of documents but of mental health.

"U.S. citizens also kill people," Gabriel said. "The issue shouldn’t be whether or not he has documents. The question is why authorities would release someone who is not well mentally."

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