San Francisco judge denies request to dismiss murder charges in Pier 14 death

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A San Francisco judge has denied a move to dismiss the murder case against the man accused of fatally shooting Kate Steinle last July on Pier 14.

Defense lawyers told the judge there was not enough evidence presented to justify the arrest of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez and they moved to dismiss the 2nd degree murder case.

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"There was reasonable suspicion to stop Lopez-Sanchez, to question him, to search him, to do certain things short of arresting him," said San Francisco's chief public defender Matt Gonzales.

Gonzales says Lopez-Sanchez was detained in a police cruiser for four hours and then taken to the Hall of Justice where he was interrogated, which Gonzales says is tantamount to an arrest.

After listening to arguments, Judge Jim Collins denied the motion to dismiss, saying he agreed with prosecutors that there was enough probable cause to arrest Lopez-Sanchez; that police relied on witness accounts and their cellphone images, where citizens pointed out the suspect to officers.

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Police, armed with a cellphone photo of Lopez-Sanchez, arrested him a block away from Pier 14 where the shooting happened. Now that the question of the arrest has been resolved by the court, Lopez-Sanchez's lawyers will focus on their defense that the shooting was an accident.

Kate Steinle was strolling down Pier 14 at the Embarcadero when she was shot in the back. Lopez-Sanchez told ABC7 News in a jailhouse interview that he found the gun under the bench and threw it off the pier after it went off accidentally.

During the preliminary hearing, former crime lab Chief Jim Norris said that Steinle was struck by the bullet after it hit the ground and ricocheted.

"We're not aware of any other case in the history of San Francisco involving a ricochet being the basis of a murder charge," Gonzales said.

More hearings are scheduled before the trial begins.

Click here for full coverage on the Pier 14 shooting.
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