In interviews with TV stations, Francisco Sanchez appears almost pathetic, confused, disheveled.
He told at least two stations, including Telemundo, that he can’t remember much about the evening of July 1, when 32-year-old Kate Steinle of Pleasanton was shot to death along San Francisco’s Pier 14. He said he was high on sleeping pills and marijuana, and he also told KGO-TV that he was out shooting sea lions and he had no idea a woman had been shot. He told the news outlets that he found a gun hidden under a bench wrapped in a towel or T-shirt.
But the district attorney apparently “isn’t buying it,” according to legal expert Steven Clark, a former prosecutor, who told NBC Bay Area on Tuesday that San Francisco’s DA, George Gascon, filed the appropriate charge of murder against Sanchez.
Sanchez is expected to be formally arraigned on Tuesday. He has essentially admitted his guilt to news stations and made an “admission,” according to San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr. His defense attorney cut off interviews on Monday morning.
It’s clear to Clark that the district attorney is not “at least, initially giving any credence to the idea that he was just shooting at sea lions, and that’s likely not supported by forensic evidence.”
Clark said that ballistics report will likely show that it was a close range shooting instead of a ricochet or some type of other accidental weapon discharge.
“And even if Sanchez was shooting at sea lions in a crowded tourist venue, that could be second degree murder,” Clark said. “It’s so depraved and malicious.”
Furthermore, as a convicted felon, not only is Sanchez not allowed to own a weapon, but he’s not allowed to even pick one up even if he found one, as he said, along the pier, Clark added.
In Clark’s opinion, Gascon is not bowing to any political pressure by filing a murder charge, instead of something lesser, as the story has blown into a full-on national debate over immigration.
Sanchez is a five-time deported undocumented immigrant and a seven-time felon, according to immigration records. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had put a detainer on Sanchez, asking the city and county of San Francisco to return him to federal custody after he finished up with an old marijuana case from about a decade ago.
But according to city and county policy, the San Francisco County Jail never returned Sanchez to ICE, nor did officials alert federal agents that Sanchez was released from jail on April 15 after prosecutors decided not to charge him in the drug case.
As Clark sees it, Sanchez’s story has indeed opened up an “important debate” that will likely be debated in Congress and perhaps create new laws. And the best case scenario for his defense, Clark said, is if Sanchez's lawyers argue that he was intoxicated or mentally ill.