Suspect in killing faced deportation
SAN FRANCISCO — A teenager accused of fatally shooting a popular community volunteer during a robbery in San Francisco last month was facing deportation at the time, authorities said Friday.
The slaying occurred Aug. 15, four days after sheriff’s investigators say Erick Garcia-Pineda, 18, stole the murder weapon from the personal car of a San Francisco police officer.
Four days after the killing, Garcia-Pineda’s monitoring device was removed from his ankle, triggering an unsuccessful search for him. An immigration judge ordered him to wear the bracelet as a condition of his release from federal custody in April.
Authorities said Garcia-Pineda had been detained by immigration authorities in December and released from custody in April pending deportation. In addition to wearing the ankle monitor, the judge required him to routinely check in with immigration officials.
He failed to show up for his August appointment, said James Schwab, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The immigration agency said a contractor received a tamper alert on Aug. 19 but authorities couldn’t find him. The agency told the man’s attorney that his client should report to them immediately.
The sheriff’s office said Garcia-Pineda was wearing the ankle bracelet when he was arrested Sept. 3 on misdemeanor battery charges, and deputies removed it. The immigration agency said the sheriff’s office ignored a request to block his release from jail that day.
Investigators later connected Garcia-Pineda to the killing of Abel Esquivel, 23, during a robbery.
Immigration agents also asked the sheriff in May to detain a second man arrested in the area who is also charged in Esquivel’s murder, Jesus Perez-Araujo, 24.
San Francisco police arrested Perez-Araujo for possession of marijuana and illegal possession of brass knuckles. He was ultimately only charged with misdemeanor possession of brass knuckles, court records showed.
Esquivel volunteered at the Central American Resource Center, which provides legal help to low-income Hispanic 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 center.
Martin Halloran, president of the police officers’ union, said the officer did not know his vehicle had been broken into until after the shooting.
“There were no visible signs of the burglary,” Halloran said. “The officer, a highly decorated veteran, is devastated.”
The case has stirred memories of the 2015 killing of a young woman on a San Francisco pier by a Mexican national who had been deported five times. A gun stolen from a law enforcement officer was also used in that shooting.
The shooting also ignited a national debate on sanctuary city policies that bar police from cooperating with federal immigration authorities unless they are seeking suspects convicted of or charged in violent crimes.
In the 2015 killing, Kate Steinle was shot as she walked on a pier crowded with tourists.
The San Francisco sheriff had released Jose Inez Garcia Zarate from jail several weeks before the Steinle shooting despite a detainer request from the immigration agency.
Zarate acknowledges shooting the gun but said it fired accidentally. He has pleaded innocent to second-degree murder.
Jury selection for his trial begins Oct. 2 while the debate over sanctuary cities continues.
President Donald Trump’s administration opposes the policy and has threatened to withhold federal funds to those cities, prompting lawsuits. A federal judge on Friday barred the administration from withholding funding until a lawsuit in Chicago is resolved.