Another suspect among the trio charged with carrying out a murder with a San Francisco police officer’s stolen gun was believed not to be in the country legally, immigration authorities announced late Friday.
Earlier Friday, U.S. immigration officials confirmed a report by NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit that one of the men accused in the Aug. 15 murder, 18-year-old Erick Garcia-Pineda, was facing deportation and had been under GPS monitoring since April. The tracking information confirms he was at the scene of the slaying and other crimes, sources said.
Later Friday, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced separately that 24-year-old Jesus Perez-Araujo, also held in the slaying of 23-year-old Abel Enrique Esquivel, Jr., had been jailed in May and that immigration officials had lodged a detainer on him.
Perez-Araujo was arrested for marijuana sales charges and misdemeanor possession of brass knuckles. That weapons case is a misdemeanor and is still pending, prosecutors say.
The retainer against Perez-Araujo was not honored, immigration officials said. He apparently did not meet the felony history required by the city administrative code established to determine when such holds could be honored under the city’s sanctuary city policy.
Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan, in a statement, said any failure to honor its holds “undermines ICE’s ability to protect the public safety and carry out its mission.”
That news came as NBC Bay Area had reported Thursday that Garcia-Pineda had been in ICE custody since he turned 18 in December 2016. In April, a judge ordered that he be released with a GPS tracking bracelet.
According to the agency’s statement, Garcia-Pineda was “released with the requirement that he wear a GPS monitoring bracelet and report to ICE in-person on a regular basis.”
Based on the tracking information, it appeared “Garcia-Pineda was complying with terms of his release until August when he failed to appear for his scheduled appointment with ICE.”
Authorities say that on June 18, he was stopped for driving without a vehicle registration and arrested, but the case was not pursued.
But on the night of Aug. 11, a .38 caliber revolver off-duty weapon and was taken from a San Francisco police officer’s car parked out front of his San Francisco home.
The officer maintains that he did not know it was stolen because there was no sign of a break-in, police union officials have said. Court documents show, however, that a speed loader, jacket and holster were taken from his car at the time the gun was stolen.
ICE spokesman James Schwab could not say whether the gun theft – and subsequent homicide – occurred before or after Garcia-Pineda failed to check in with ICE officials.
But he acknowledged the agency could have picked him up for failing to check in. Schwab stressed agents have many such cases and ICE has to prioritize among them.
Meanwhile, sources have told NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit that the data from that tracking device confirms that Garcia-Pineda was at the scene of the slaying, two other shootings and a total of five robberies.
Garcia-Pineda was arrested on Aug. 18 in connection with one of them that occurred in the hours after the homicide. He was arrested for assault, firing into an occupied dwelling and receiving stolen property, but no charges were filed pending further investigation. It is not clear whether immigration officials asked that he be held in that case, but his monitoring bracelet was cut off by deputies as of Aug. 19, Schwab said. It is standard to remove such trackers because they pose an inmate safety risk, officials say.
That removal triggered a tamper alert and a failed effort to locate Garcia-Pineda, Schwab said. His attorney said he would report, but he never did.
Only after his release did police seize the stolen revolver during a search warrant and tied it to the officer.
Meanwhile, Garcia-Pineda was arrested again in September on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. Federal officials said they sought a detainer that he be held on their behalf at the jail in that incident. He was again released, however, as prosecutors did not pursue the case.
“Despite the detainer, local authorities released him back into the community without providing any notification to ICE,” federal authorities said of that incident.
San Francisco sheriff’s spokeswoman Eileen Hirst said Friday that Garcia-Pineda “didn’t fit the profile” for being held under the sanctuary city provisions of the city administrative code.
She did not comment as to why, but the code specifies a court order or a history of serious and violent felonies be established for an ICE detainer be honored.
At a court appearance on Thursday, Garcia-Pineda, Perez-Araujo, and Daniel Cruz, 18, all from San Francisco, denied a long list of charges.
The stolen gun murder case comes after a state law as enacted last year. It requires all weapons must be locked in a frame mounted box or secured inside the trunk of any unattended car.
Police Chief William Scott acknowledged late Thursday that police “have to investigate the circumstances of how the officer’s gun was stolen and that’s an internal investigation that’s ongoing, but the loss of life is really a tragedy.”
Police Union President Martin Halloran has said that the officer – identified in court records as Marvin Cabuntala -- was “devastated” by the news his gun had been used in a slaying and was cooperating fully with the investigation.