SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Federal immigration authorities said Friday that they were tracking a young immigrant when San Francisco police allege he shot and killed a popular community activist last month.
Erick Garcia-Pineda, 18, was detained in December and released from custody in April pending deportation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said. An immigration judge required him to wear an ankle monitor and routinely check in with ICE.
Garcia-Pineda failed to show up for his August appointment, ICE spokesman James Schwab said.
San Francisco police say Garcia-Pineda used a gun stolen from an officer’s car to kill Abel Ezquivel, 23, on Aug. 15. He was arrested on misdemeanor battery charges Sept. 3 before investigators say they connected him to the slaying.
ICE says the sheriff’s department ignored a request to block his release from jail that day. San Francisco’s “sanctuary city” policy bars the sheriff from cooperating with immigration officials unless they are seeking suspects convicted or charged with violent crimes.
It comes amid a national debate over sanctuary city policies that the Trump administration is targeting. It is requiring cities to enforce tough immigration laws to receive some federal grants, which has prompted lawsuits.
Opponents of the laws often cite the 2015 case of a woman killed on a San Francisco pier, which police have blamed on a man in the country illegally after multiple deportations to his native Mexico.
California lawmakers were preparing Friday to vote on so-called sanctuary state legislation that would expand protections for people living in the country illegally who come into contact with law enforcement.
In Garcia-Pineda’s case, police say he and two other men were carrying out a string of robberies in the city’s Mission District when they encountered Ezquivel walking down the street. Ezquivel was shot and killed.
Garcia-Pineda and the two other men “were responsible for several robberies” between Aug. 13 and Aug. 15, San Francisco police Sgt. Michael Andraychak said.
Ezquivel volunteered at the Central American Resource Center, which provides legal help to low-income Latino clients and other social services.
“We were shocked to hear the weapon belonged to a police officer,” said Lariza Dugan Cuadra, executive director of the Central American Resource Center.
Martin Halloran, president of the police officers’ union, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the officer did not know his vehicle had been broken in to until after the shooting.
“There were no visible signs of the burglary,” Halloran said. “The officer, a highly decorated veteran, is devastated.”
A police bulletin from 2015 said officers should keep a gun with them when they are in public and that if they are forced to leave a firearm briefly in an unattended vehicle, they must secure the weapon in the locked trunk where it cannot be seen.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.