SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A San Francisco judge is deciding whether to schedule a murder trial for a Mexican national deported from the United States five times before shooting a young woman -- a death that became the focus of the national immigration debate.
A preliminary hearing on the matter is scheduled to resume Thursday in San Francisco.
Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez has pleaded not guilty to murder charges, though he admits to firing the shot that killed Kathryn Steinle, while she was on an evening stroll with her father.
Lopez-Sanchez said the shooting was an accident. He said he found a .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol under a bench on San Francisco's Pier 14. He said the gun accidentally fired when he picked it up.
Ballistics experts testified last week that the shot ricocheted off the concrete walkway and fatally struck Steinle in the back. The gun was stolen from the car of a Bureau of Land Management ranger in downtown San Francisco in June.
The incident touched off an international debate over U.S. immigration policy and the so-called "sanctuary city" policies of hundreds of municipalities across the country.
Before the shooting, the San Francisco Sheriff's Department had released Lopez-Sanchez from jail after local prosecutors dropped a 20-year-old marijuana possession charge. Lopez-Sanchez, 45, was released despite a federal request to detain him further so immigration officials could decide whether to start deportation proceedings for the sixth time.
San Francisco and some 300 other cities and counties have passed local laws of non-cooperation with federal immigration officials seeking to detain jail inmates suspected of being in the country illegally.
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said he was following city law when Lopez-Sanchez was released.
Kathryn Steinle's family and their attorneys filed three separate legal claims seeking unspecified damages from the BLM, San Francisco Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The three agencies declined to comment on the claims, which are precursors to lawsuits.