The shot that killed Kate Steinle as she was walking on a San Francisco pier last month was a ricochet, according to defense attorneys.
Lawyers for Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who is charged with first-degree murder in the slaying, claimed in court Wednesday that the shooting was an accident and that the bullet ricocheted off pavement before striking 32-year-old Steinle in the back, the Associated Press reports.
But San Francisco police inspector John Evans offered a different perspective, testifying that the bullet traveled in a straight line, which suggests that Lopez-Sanchez, 45, was pointing the gun at Steinle that night.
A judge will continue to hear testimony on Thursday as part of a preliminary hearing to determine whether there’s enough evidence for Lopez-Sanchez to stand trial for murder.
Lopez-Sanchez, a repeat felon who’d been deported from the United States to his native Mexico five times prior to the shooting, previously stated that he found the gun, which reportedly belonged to a federal agent, wrapped in a T-shirt. He said he picked it up and it accidentally went off.
But San Francisco Police ballistics expert Andy Smith testified Wednesday that the gun was in good condition, adding that it seemed unlikely that it would discharge of its own accord.
“Pulling the trigger, however that trigger was pulled, was the only way for that gun to discharge,” Smith said, the AP reports. “This gun could not just be sitting on a table and all of a sudden, due to some malfunction, go off.”
Lopez-Sanchez’s attorney, Matt Gonzalez, suggested that his client “mishandled” the gun.
Despite being deported nearly a half dozen times, Lopez-Sanchez always returned to the U.S. “because I was looking for jobs in the restaurant or roofing, landscaping, or construction,” he told ABC7 last month. As a sanctuary city, San Francisco offers illegal immigrants like Lopez-Sanchez a degree of protection.
Lopez-Sanchez has pleaded not guilty in the shooting.
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