A 20-year-old warrant over an alleged $20 marijuana deal in San Francisco turned into a ticket to freedom for Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the man charged with murder in the shooting of a stranger who was walking on a waterfront pier, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Whether he should have gotten that ticket continued to fuel debate in the aftermath of Wednesday's slaying of Kathryn Steinle. Lopez-Sanchez, whose age is listed as 45 by police and 52 in jail records, is a convicted felon with a long history of drug crimes who has spent about half his adult life serving time for illegally entering the country and has been deported five times to Mexico.
Lopez-Sanchez was on his way to a sixth deportation earlier this year. But something changed: He got sent to San Francisco. After serving 46 months at a lockup in San Bernardino County for felony re-entry into the country, Lopez-Sanchez was sent to San Francisco in March by the federal Bureau of Prisons rather than being transferred into U.S. immigration custody. The old marijuana warrant, officials said, took precedence over the civil immigration case. Upon his return to San Francisco, immigration officials asked that he be held for deportation after the city got through with him. But after his case was discharged by city prosecutors on March 27, the day of his arraignment, he was released by the Sheriff's Department on April 15. The immigration hold was not honored. Less than three months later, Steinle was dead.