Local officials called for a rethink of sanctuary policies Wednesday after confirming that the man arrested for a stabbing rampage at a California church over the weekend was an illegal immigrant with a lengthy criminal record and multiple deportation requests from ICE, all of which were refused.
Fernando De Jesus Lopez-Garcia had been deported three times before and had nearly 15 years of run-ins with police. His rap sheet included disturbing the peace, lying to police, resisting arrest, assault with a deadly weapon and felony domestic violence.
He was released three times over the past two years in defiance of detainer requests, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
On Sunday, he was arrested after police found five people stabbed at a Baptist church that also runs a homeless shelter. He faces two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder.
“Here we have catastrophic proof of the abject failure of California’s sanctuary policies,” said David Jennings, director of ICE’s deportation operations in its San Francisco field office. “The only person this policy protected was a criminal, permitting him to reoffend over and over again.”
He said if any of the three detainer requests ICE had placed on Mr. Lopez-Garcia over the past couple years had been honored, he could have been gotten off the streets.
“These are deaths that likely could have been prevented had local law enforcement cooperated with ICE,” Mr. Jennings said.
California state law limits cooperation with ICE to the most serious criminal cases. San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia said his criminal record was serious enough to have qualified for ICE notification, but the detainer “was not honored.”
A judge also released him on his own recognizance earlier this year, defying prosecutors’ request that he be held.
Chief Garcia said Mr. Lopez was himself homeless, and volunteered at the church shelter. Witnesses told police it appeared Mr. Lopez was on drugs — likely methamphetamine — at time of the stabbing spree.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo blamed “multiple system failures” for allowing Mr. Lopez to be out and to be a danger.
He said that includes too few services for the homeless, too little drug treatment, and too much leniency from the criminal justice system.
And he said in a case like this, with a lengthy violent criminal record, the county should have complied with ICE.
“This pendulum has swung too far,” he said.