A ballistics expert yesterday seemed to back up Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez's claim that he fatally shot Kate Steinle by accident at San Francisco's Pier 14 in broad daylight in July. During a preliminary hearing, the former chief of the San Francisco Police crime lab said the gun the undocumented Mexican immigrant claimed to have found on a bench "was pointed at the ground" when it went off, sending a bullet ricocheting off the pier walkway before striking Steinle, 32, in the back as she walked about 100 feet away, reports the San Jose Mercury News. "You couldn't do this on purpose," the ex-chief added out of court. He told a judge the weapon, a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol recovered from San Francisco Bay, has no safety switch and needs little force on the trigger to fire, reports ABC7.
Prosecutors agree the bullet ricocheted but say the shot was intentional and imply Lopez-Sanchez was perhaps just "a lousy shot." The prosecution's firearms expert says Lopez-Sanchez could have still been aiming at Steinle at the time. San Francisco's chief medical examiner on Wednesday said the bullet was traveling at an upward angle when it lodged in Steinle's abdomen, reports ABC7. "It is an atypical entrance wound, which to me has a lot of significance," he said. "This is anything but a classic entrance wound." Tourist photos show Lopez-Sanchez was at the waterfront at the time of the shooting. He later confessed to firing the gun. Judge Brendan Conroy will ultimately decide whether he should face a murder trial; the preliminary hearing will continue Sept. 3. (Read more San Francisco stories.)