SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A man arrested in the seemingly random fatal shooting of a woman at a San Francisco pier admitted in a jailhouse interview on Sunday that he shot her, but said it was an accident.
Francisco Sanchez, 45, told KGO-TV in a mix of Spanish and English that he found a gun wrapped inside a shirt while he was sitting on a bench at the pier and smoking a cigarette.
“So I picked it up and … it started to fire on its own,” Sanchez said, adding that he heard three shots go off.
He appeared confused and sometimes spoke incoherently during the interview, and said he has poor vision and was under the influence of sleeping pills at the time of the shooting.
“All I want to say is that in the courts, I want them to give me the punishment I deserve and get it over with as soon as possible,” Sanchez said during the roughly 45-minute interview.
Kathryn Steinle, 32, was gunned down while out for an evening stroll at Pier 14 with her father and a family friend on Wednesday. Police said witnesses heard no argument or dispute before the shooting, suggesting it was a random attack.
Witnesses at the popular waterfront attraction snapped photos of Sanchez immediately after the shooting, and the images helped police make the arrest while he was walking on a sidewalk a few blocks away.
The shooting has drawn national attention and criticism of the city’s sanctuary ordinance after federal officials revealed that Sanchez has seven felony convictions and was deported five times to his native Mexico.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 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 stays 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.
Sanchez said he returned to the U.S. after being deported because he found better-paying jobs in the country than in Mexico.