San Francisco: A shooting death, sanctuary and immigration

Jul 7, 2015

California has long been Ground Zero for the national discussion over immigration policy, but the shooting of a woman in San Francisco's Embarcadero by a man authorities describe as an undocumented immigrant with a criminal record is intensifying the debate dramatically.


From the LAT's  Lee Romney, Cindy Chang and Joel Rubin: "Police say that Sanchez shot and killed Kathryn Steinle, 32, who had recently moved to San Francisco from the suburb of Pleasanton, while she strolled on the tourist-friendly Embarcadero with her father Wednesday."


"Sanchez admitted in an interview with KGO-TV to accidentally firing a gun he said he found wrapped in a T-shirt near a bench. But in halting and often contradictory explanations Sanchez said he had taken such strong sleeping pills before the incident that his memory is murky. He was charged Monday with Steinle's killing and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday."


"At the root of the tragedy is the uneasy relationship between immigration authorities and local law enforcement in many parts of the country — but most notably in California and perhaps nowhere more so than in the Bay Area."


In the Bay Area, the Chronicle's Debra Saunders opines on the case, where San Francisco's sanctuary policy gets new scrutiny.

"This is a national story, because the federal government released accused shooter Francisco Sanchez to a San Francisco jail in March and the jail released Sanchez to the streets April 15 after the district attorney dropped a 20-year-old charge for marijuana possession. Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said he did so in keeping with San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy."


"Sanchez, 45, told KGO-TV’s Cornell Barnard that he did shoot Steinle: It was an accident. Sanchez had been convicted of seven felonies, four drug-related, and deported to his native Mexico five times. He clearly believed he could break immigration and drug laws with impunity, and did..."


"When this story broke last week, one question nagged at me: Why would the feds release a career criminal on an old marijuana charge to San Francisco, instead of deporting him? If a thinking law enforcement official spent 30 seconds considering the notion, he or she would have thought better — with 28 seconds to spare."


The California Public Utilities Commission is the story that keeps on giving: The powerful regulator that handles everything from cell phones to railroads has been in trouble lately, and it's not getting any better.


The U-T's Jeff McDonald tells the tale: "The criminal investigation of the California Public Utilities Commission appears to be intensifying, with state agents serving a fresh round of search warrants at the regulators’ headquarters in San Francisco and at Southern California Edison offices outside Los Angeles."


"The Attorney General’s Office wants details about a settlement agreement that assigned Southern California ratepayers to cover $3.3 billion in shutdown costs for the San Onofre nuclear plant, which closed on an emergency basis in January 2012 after Edison installed faulty replacement steam generators that caused a radiation leak."

"According to documents obtained by The San Diego Union-Tribune, investigators executed a warrant at the commission offices on June 5, seeking “any and all records” pertaining to the San Onofre settlement between the day of the leak — Jan. 31, 2012 — and January 2015."


Looks like those afficionados of lane-splitting -- you know, where motorcyclists zip by while the rest of us are stalled bumper to bumper -- are going to have to slow down for a year. The bill has been put in the slow lane.


From the Sacramento Bee's Jim Miller: "California legislation that would make it clear that motorcyclists can split lanes of traffic has been tabled for the year, several weeks after it passed the Assembly with bipartisan support."


"The author of Assembly Bill 51, Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, will continue to work with stakeholders and resurrect the bill in 2016, the second half of the Legislature’s two-year session, a spokeswoman said. The measure faced a July 17 deadline to clear its first Senate policy committee."


"Lane splitting is illegal in every state but California, which does not expressly allow or prohibit the practice. An estimated 80 percent of California motorcyclists split lanes, but it remains controversial among motorists, prompting authorities to publish lane-splitting guidelines in early 2013. They pulled them back after objections that there had been no formal rule-making process."


Speaking of life on the road, drivers who cause accidents increasingly are leaving the scene of the crash  in what authorities say is becoming an epidemic of hit-and-runs.


KPCC's Megan McCarty tells the tale: "According to the Los Angeles Police Department, drivers left the scene of about 20,000 accidents in 2014 in Los Angeles alone, killing 27 people and seriously injuring 144. Only 1 in 5 such cases is ever solved."


"I think people continue to flee the scene of accidents because they feel they can do so with impunity," said California State Assemblymember Mike Gatto, who introduced the highway sign bill and whose district includes parts of L.A. County."


"A similar program in Denver led to a 76 percent arrest rate in hit and run cases, up from 20 percent the year before. It was expanded to the entire state of Colorado."


Finally, from our "More Reasons Not to Move to Florida" file comes word of the guy who dressed up as a pirate and was shooting at passing cars on a busy highway. Throw him in the brig.


"Frightened witnesses called the cops when the man, armed to the teeth with 18th century weaponry, fired off a round at passing cars in the Florida Keys, according to a Monroe County Sheriff’s report"


"The pirate pretender told deputies he was watching the sunset with a couple of friends on June 29 on the Seven Miles Bridge when he decided to pop off a couple of shots. The blasts were only blanks, and he turned the pistols toward the water, he claimed, according to the sheriff’s report."


"Deputies arrested the man, identified as 58-year-old Jamie Spiering, on charges of disorderly conduct. They alleged he fired once toward the water, and again toward the cars."