The man accused of killing a woman at a popular San Francisco pier said the gun went off by accident after he found it wrapped in a T-shirt and picked it up.
Francisco Sanchez said he was walking on Pier 14 after taking sleeping pills he found in a dumpster.
He claimed to have found the T-shirt and picked it up, only for the gun inside it to go off three times, fatally injuring Kathryn Steinle, who was known as Kate.
‘Then suddenly I heard that boom boom, three times,’ he said, talking to ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco.
He claims he only realized he had shot someone when he was arrested by police hours later, after discarding the gun in the bay.
Kate, 32, was killed on Wednesday as she walked with her father along the Embarcadero, which was busy with people.
The shooting led to Donald Trump renewing his calls for tougher immigration controls.
The presidential hopeful branded U.S. border controls an ‘absolute disgrace’ in light of the revelation that Francisco Sanchez, 45, had already been deported five times – and was recently released from jail by officials who routinely refuse requests to hand over illegal immigrants.
And Trump, 69, used the crime to repeat his calls for more restrictions on movement between Mexico and the United States.
From his Twitter page, the would-be Republican nominee shared a link to coverage of the attack and said: ‘Our Southern border is totally out of control. This is an absolutely disgraceful situation. We need border security!’
He then continued: ‘Our Southern border is unsecure [sic]. I am the only one that can fix it, nobody else has the guts to even talk about it.’
It came as immigration officials revealed that Sanchez should have been sent to them when he was arrested four months ago, but was let go in accordance with San Francisco’s ‘sanctuary city’ policy.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement had marked him as an ‘enforcement priority’ who should have been handed over immediately.
But San Francisco officials admitted that due to a soft policy on undocumented immigrants, they do not always comply with the requests – which in Sanchez’s case left him out on the streets on the night of the murder.
Trump has been at the center of a firestorm this week after business partners and associates rounded on him for his anti-Mexican rhetoric.
He has several times characterized Mexicans as criminals and ‘rapists’, and pledged to build a solid wall along the nation’s southern frontier if elected.
NBC, Macy’s, Univision and stars of his Miss Universe beauty pageant all cut ties with him in light of the comments.
And on Friday, NASCAR joined the growing anti-Trump group by announcing it would no longer hold its end-of-season awards ceremony at a Trump hotel in Miami.
Half an hour after his opening salvo, Trump also added a message of condolence to Steinle’s family, also taking the opportunity to add ‘we need a wall!’.
He later challenged other presidential candidates to match his statements – including a direct challenge to Florida senator Marco Rubio.
Since the pier killing, reports have revealed how Sanchez was already on probation out of Texas and should have been sent to federal authorities as an ‘enforcement priority’ following a Bay Area arrest four months ago.
Records indicate Sanchez had seven previous felony convictions and has been deported to Mexico on five separate occasions.
However, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was never notified of that latest arrest before he carried out the alleged slaying,NBC Bay Area reports. And he was instead allowed to walk free from a San Francisco jail.
The arrest was on a charge of selling marijuana, for which prosecutors declined to charge him. The date on which Sanchez was last released has not been disclosed.
Standard protocol called for Sheriffs – who ran the jail where Sanchez was last detained – to notify police upon his release, but that never happened, notes NBC Bay Area.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said Sanchez had a ‘detainer’ on his status, meaning federal officials had flagged him for detention with notification sent to state and local authorities.
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