News / World

San Francisco faces claim after stolen police gun kills man

SAN FRANCISCO — The family of a community volunteer killed by a gun stolen from a San Francisco officer filed a legal claim with the city Wednesday, alleging the police department failed to provide proper training on gun storage.

Abel Esquivel, 22, was killed during a robbery Aug. 15 as he walked to his mother's house after working a late shift at a grocery store. He volunteered at the Central American Resource Center, which provides legal help to low-income Latino clients and other social services.

Three men were arrested and charged with murder, including an 18-year-old facing deportation who was wearing a monitoring device so federal immigration authorities could track him.

The family's claim was filed at City Hall and seeks unspecified damages. It alleges that the off-duty officer's loaded gun was left unattended in a private car rather than stored in a lockbox in the trunk.

If the San Francisco Board of Supervisors rejects the claim, lawyers said they will file a wrongful-death lawsuit.

City attorney spokesman John Cote said San Francisco lawyers are reviewing the claim.

"What's clear is that Mr. Esquivel's death was a tragedy, and we are heartbroken for his family," Cote said. "But our office also has a legal responsibility to San Francisco's taxpayers. Based on what we know now, the city is not liable for his death under the law."

Two separate lawsuits are pending in Northern California alleging that guns stolen from law enforcement officials were used in homicides, including the fatal shooting of Kate Steinle in July 2015.

A Mexican man living in the country illegally who had been deported five times was charged with murder after Steinle's death on a San Francisco pier, sparking a national debate over the country's immigration policies.

Steinle was shot with a gun stolen from a Bureau of Land Management ranger. A jury acquitted Jose Ines Garcia Zarate of killing her days after he released from jail under the city's "sanctuary city" law despite a federal request to detain him for deportation.

After the verdict, U.S. prosecutors charged him with illegal gun possession and he pleaded not guilty Tuesday.

The family of an Oakland artist is suing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency after a gun stolen from one of its agents was used to kill the man while he painted a mural under a freeway overpass.

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