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The Kate Steinle tragedy: A year after her death on Pier 14

What Pleasanton lost when she was killed; how her family has endured

For days, Brad Steinle spent his time sanding the black paint off his sister's childhood dresser to its raw wood, the smell of sawdust thick in the July heat.

Just weeks after his 32-year-old sister Kathryn "Kate" Steinle was killed on San Francisco's crowded Pier 14 last year, there was something cathartic about stripping away the inky hue.

With his wife nearing her due date, he painted the dresser a fresh coat of white and added colorful elephant and lion knobs in his parents' Pleasanton garage. At one point he stopped, realizing he could buy a similar piece at IKEA. But this one was more important.

"This is Kate's," he told himself.

Brad went back to work. There was a little girl on the way who would need that dresser.

On July 1, 2015, Kate Steinle was visiting Pier 14, a popular San Francisco tourist destination, just as Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez allegedly found a gun wrapped in a T-shirt. The gun fired, and the bullet hit the ground before striking Kate in the back.

Her father attempted CPR after hearing her last words -- "Help me, Dad" -- but she died later that day. Kate was headed to a baby shower that evening, where she would have found out a niece was on the way.

But as July gave way to August last year, and the East Bay began to feel the relief of fall, the cameras and condolences peeled away -- leaving the Steinles to process Kate's absence.

"When you lose a child, it's a different deal," said Jim Steinle, Kate's father.

"It's so debilitating. It just locks you up. You'll be sitting there, fine and dandy, and suddenly you can't move, you can't think, you can't breathe," added Jim, who now lives with Kate's mother, Liz Sullivan, in Livermore after selling their Pleasanton home to their son Brad about a year ago.

Kate Steinle's death dominated national headlines for several days in early July 2015.

The circumstances consumed her family's lives as they chased relentless and confounding updates: An apparently random act of violence, an undocumented culprit who had recently been released from law enforcement custody, a gun stolen from a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger by an unknown person, complex city immigration protections and the quick filing of a congressional bill emblazoned with Kate's name.

The Steinles were left to contend with the maelstrom of a violent and public death, coupled with political ramifications.

After Lopez-Sanchez's arrest, authorities said he had been deported to Mexico five times and was in San Francisco Sheriff's Office custody weeks earlier -- but was released when his drug-related charges were dismissed. Immigration officials weren't notified because San Francisco adheres to a "sanctuary city" policy, which means local law enforcement does not hold people for immigration violations alone.

Shortly after the Pier 14 shooting, conservative talk show host Bill O'Reilly pushed his support for a congressional bill to change sanctuary city laws, coining it "Kate's Law."

That bill, filed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and a similar piece of legislation failed to pass in the Senate this summer. Kate's Law would have established a mandatory five-year minimum prison term -- up from two years -- for undocumented immigrants who re-enter the U.S. after deportation.

"We're disappointed in the ruling but confident it will pass eventually," Jim said, noting he received a call from Cruz after the vote.

The second-degree murder case against Lopez-Sanchez continues, with twists every so often. Ballistics experts have testified the bullet hit the ground first, ricocheted and then struck Kate, which defense counsel argues is an indication the shooting was an accident. The prosecution contends Lopez-Sanchez intended to kill her.

The Steinle family also filed a wrongful death lawsuit in May naming the City of San Francisco, former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as defendants.

The lawsuit claims officials failed to perform their duties, which allowed the fatal shooting to happen. The Steinle family declined to comment on the ongoing civil case.

But the proposed legislation and the legal recourse do not bring any comfort, the Steinles said.

At the end of the day, they turn to their few sources of relief: faith, volunteerism and memories.

Kate's life

Memories don't heal the Steinles' pain. Remembering an absence -- repetitively, purposefully -- aches. Forgetting would be worse.

Kate Steinle became part of the Pleasanton community when she was a toddler. She was a strong-willed girl, and her parents realized what they were up against when she took over teaching her preschool dance class one day, her mother Liz said.

When Brad -- now a 34-year-old small business owner -- and Kate once built a wooden playhouse, Kate clonked her older brother in the head with a 2-by-4 by accident.

"This whole tape is her saying, 'Sowwy, Bradley,'" her mom said.

"For like 15 minutes," Brad said.

"She didn't stop building, though," Liz said.

As Kate grew, she pulled her friends into her family's circle. As a high school student at Amador Valley High, she floated from group to group and had as many friends from crosstown rival Foothill High as from her own school.

By junior year, Kate struggled with the structured, pre-planned world of high school. She was ready to make her own decisions, but it wasn't until she enrolled in Las Positas College after graduation that she was able to foster that need, Jim said.

When his daughter began to bloom into an adult as a college student, Jim said he was so proud. He said he knew Kate's gumption and kindness would equip her to achieve anything.

After studying business communications at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, her first job was as a title representative in San Francisco, working as a liaison with real estate offices. She and Brad got neighboring apartments in the city, played on the same softball team and had the same group of friends.

They were like twins separated by a year, the family joked -- and were rarely ever separated.

When the Great Recession hit and the housing market crashed, Kate used the money she had saved to vacation in Africa. While on a layover in Dubai, a brief meeting secured a job offer as a liaison between oil companies and Middle Eastern government officials.

Hearing that his 20-something daughter was going to be working in a foreign country wasn't exactly the news Jim was hoping to hear when he got an update from Kate. But he said he knew if anyone had the strength and stamina to do that job, it was her.

Over the years, she saved up, traveled and relished making friends as she journeyed, but she always gravitated back toward the Bay Area. After two years of working for a medical supply wholesaler in San Francisco, she secured a job at Medtronic Inc. in San Francisco's downtown.

Her job was to be on the sidelines during surgeries that used Medtronic's specialized equipment to answer any questions the doctors had and to demonstrate how to best use the machine, her mom said.

"She'd call the doctor a day or two after to see how the patient was doing," Liz recalled.

The medical field was no place for a timid salesperson, especially in a male-dominated field. Kate faced her share of pushback from doctors and co-workers alike during her various jobs, her dad said.

Once, a doctor who she was trying to meet with to secure a contract told her that it would take a magical spell and fairy dust for him to change his mind.

"She wrote back to him a few days later and said, 'I'm learning to perform an incantation, and I'm sure in San Francisco it won't be too hard to find some fairy dust, so I'm really looking forward to meeting you,'" Liz said.

Kate had a serious boyfriend, and her family all but expected them to settle down soon in Pleasanton and start having children. Brad's wife, Amy Warehouse, said the couple had started looking at homes in Oakland and Berkeley.

Kate's mom said she's spoken with other parents who have lost children. They've been initiated into a community that no one wants to be a part of but that they now need to survive.

They mentor her and her husband about the waves of grief they've endured and the ones to come.

As Liz remembers the joy of being close with her daughter, she hopes others will follow a simple request: "If they're estranged from any loved ones, to love and live every day."

You never know, she said, when a moment might become a final memory.

Serving humanity

Fundraising for causes Kate supported has become a Steinle family mission.

They're currently organizing a fundraising 5K and 10K run, with proceeds dedicated to Students Rising Above and the Challenged Athletes Foundation. The college scholarships and athletic grants provided by these nonprofits give youth the resources to achieve their dreams, her parents said.

"It's serving humanity in Kate's name," her dad said.

Their family takes comfort in the letters of support they've received from around the world. Letters detail how Kate supported a stranger or became a friend to someone who desperately needed one.

A soldier wrote from a base in Afghanistan, saying, "I don't know how you all are doing this" -- saying their fight was tougher than mortar shells and hidden roadside bombs.

The unusual circumstances of her death led to some expressions of hate and divisiveness, particularly from political pulpits. Most recently, her name was invoked in Donald Trump's nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

"Instead, my opponent wants sanctuary cities," Trump said. "But where was sanctuary for Kate Steinle?"

But the politicalization of her life and death isn't the legacy Kate wanted to leave, said her friend Karie Chamberlain, a Livermore resident who grew up with her in Pleasanton.

"It's not going to bring her back; it's not going to make it easier. It's just going to distract from the beautiful person," Chamberlain said in an interview the week of Kate's death.

But love -- that's what she left behind, her family said.

So her family loves others because Kate would have loved them. They love to keep darkness at arm's length.

"We've never done, 'Why?' There is no why," her dad said. "And we've never been angry. Never revengeful. There's no room for it."

Jim said his family's faith has gotten them through the past year.

Once, he felt the strong urge to just go to his church, Cornerstone Fellowship in Livermore. It wasn't time for the service he usually attended, but he went anyway.

"I felt like I had to go," Jim said. "And someone was there to pray for me, and you really felt the presence of God."

Kate's mom said everything was shaken by Kate's death -- her marriage, her family's relationships and her own sense of self. Faith enabled them all to lean on something other than fractured loved ones.

"I just pray for strength and guidance and peace," Liz said, a tear sliding down her face, "and that I can somehow feel her."

New life

Kate's childhood dresser sits where it did 20 years ago -- in the same room, in the same corner. It just has a different owner.

Little onesies and baby socks fill the drawers. The animal knobs match an "exploration" theme in 1-year-old Reiss's room, the same room that Kate had when she was a child. Kate always loved her travels, Brad said, so they're passing that joy on to Reiss.

"Reiss has been the most amazing blessing because she's brought new life," he said. "It's been one of our saviors for our family."

Brad said he's grateful for a distraction, but it's more than that. He looks at his first-born and sees familiar spunk and free-will.

"Sometimes, I see her, and I think that there's a little bit of Kate in her," he said.

There's also melancholy in knowing Kate already loved Reiss before she was born and couldn't wait to hold her, Warehouse said. She said Brad regrets that Kate never got to meet her niece -- didn't get to settle down and raise her own children alongside them.

There are no perfect words for Brad to describe the depth of his family's loss.

At the most profound moments of remembering his sister -- at the moments when the emotions feel palpable, when they cease to be ideas and he can physically feel the pain -- words aren't enough.

As he sat in silence, holding back a surge of grief, his infant daughter squirmed. She looked at her father from his knee and scrunched up her face until her eyes were nearly closed (she's been practicing frowning, he said).

Brad laughed and tickled the little girl. His eyes relaxed and he wiped away a tear.

He kissed his baby daughter. His little Reiss Kathryn Steinle.

Steinle family Good For Your Soul 5K/10K

What: The Steinle family is hosting a 5K and 10K race to honor the memory of their daughter Kate and to raise money for the charities she supported. Proceeds will go to Students Rising Above and the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

When: 8:30 a.m. Oct. 30

Where: Races start at 652 Main St. in Pleasanton, under the Pleasanton Arch. The 5K and 10K courses include part of the Arroyo trails in Pleasanton, which are partially paved and partially trail roads. A Kids' Challenge will be a paved sprint down Main Street.

Tickets: Entry costs $40 for the 5K and 10K run, and $15 for the Kids' Challenge.

Details: For more information and to register, visit goodforyoursoulrun.com.

Comments

20 people like this
Posted by mike moreno
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 5, 2016 at 9:28 am

We need to find out why the Democrat's refused to pass Kate's Law, which would have helped prevent tragedies like Kate's death. I would like to know how Eric Swalwell voted.


15 people like this
Posted by Lan
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 5, 2016 at 10:26 am

Eric Swalwell voted against Kate's Law stating he believed in the values and purpose of sanctuary cities. Honestly, I never thought I see the day where illegal immigrants would have the same rights and protections as US Citizens.

All my best to the Steinle family. The grace and dignity they've shown throughout this tragedy is amazing.


8 people like this
Posted by Brad
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 5, 2016 at 10:46 am

I'd love to see the Steinle's sue San Francisco and the sheriff's department into oblivion. Her blood is on their hands.


14 people like this
Posted by ordinary joe
a resident of Amador Estates
on Aug 5, 2016 at 10:51 am

Mike,
I hope you are not surprised to learn that EVERY SINGLE DEMOCRAT in the House Senate voted to block Kate's law. It was blocked in the Senate. It passed in the House earlier because the House is majority Republican.

Here is more info >>> Web Link

Web Link


18 people like this
Posted by buklau
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 5, 2016 at 11:14 am

buklau is a registered user.

Mike,

They refuse to pass Kate's law because it's not "politically correct." It's mean and unfair to deal with the homeless in SF, and it's also mean to deal with the immigration issue.

We are living in a time when illegals often have as many rights as citizens; you could argue it's "buying votes."

Happy Friday everyone!


11 people like this
Posted by Scott Walsh
a resident of Amador Estates
on Aug 5, 2016 at 6:38 pm

Swallwell votes how he is told to vote. He touted he knew the family when he was growing up. Yet Sanctuary Cities and a 5 time deported illegal takes precedence. If this, God forbid, a member of his family, he may have voted differently. But he has been bought and paid for by the Demo Party. He this must vote how they tell him to vote. Follow the money. This guy will be like the other legislators. He will get wealthy producing nothing.


7 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 5, 2016 at 7:32 pm

It's all about future votes for the dems.

Very sorry about the loss of their child


13 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2016 at 8:41 pm

BobB is a registered user.

Using this tragedy to pass some unnecessary law would have been foolish. Glad the Democrats voted against it.

Immigrants come to work.


15 people like this
Posted by Shelley
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2016 at 12:56 am

Statistically, undocumented workers in the US are far less likely than US citizens to commit violent crimes.

It is a shame that some would attempt to politicize this tragedy because of their hatred and fear of undocumented workers.


Posted by Shelley
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood

on Aug 6, 2016 at 9:50 pm


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7 people like this
Posted by beach bum
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2016 at 5:50 pm


Anyone who trusts the govt statistics in this area is, well, a sap.

And that is putting it very kindly


2 people like this
Posted by beach bum
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Funny

Well-meaning folks who shout about the lack of complete honesty by the govt other areas throw these statistics in our face like they are absolutely accurate and exhaustive. Foolish.


6 people like this
Posted by beach bum
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2016 at 6:07 pm

Ah yes, rational arguments called racist and hateful

Democratic playbook 2016
[removed]


18 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 7, 2016 at 6:51 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

The stats regarding this story:

1. Kate Steinle is dead.
2. Kate Steinle is Dead from a gun shot.
3. An illegal immigrant fired the Gun that shot and killed Kate Steinle.
4. The illegal immigrant has been deported multiple times.
5. The illegal immigrant has been convicted of five felonies in the U.S.
6. The City and County of San Francisco is defending the illegal immigrants right to be here.
7. The City and County of San Francisco is defending the illegal immigrants right to fire a gun that killed Kate.


12 people like this
Posted by beach bum
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2016 at 7:24 pm


The overwhelming majority of likely voters, I believe higher than 75% in many polls, believe illegal immigration is a serious problem for this country.

Even with that type of political consensus, our representatives have done nothing to fix the issue in a substantive manner.

What does that tell you, Mr. & Mrs. America?

Suckers.


5 people like this
Posted by beach bum
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2016 at 7:32 pm

Ok, I'll take a stab at the answers

For Dems: the illegals are future Democratic voters

For Repubs: don't want to upset the Chamber of Commerce and the joys of cheap labor

That is all.


8 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2016 at 8:01 pm

BobB is a registered user.

@beach bum,

It tells you that 75 percent of Americans are wrong. Like they were about slavery.


1 person likes this
Posted by Beach bum is right.
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 7, 2016 at 9:26 pm

No they might be right. Another 20 year old young man was shot and killed execution style on the wharf last night.


8 people like this
Posted by Get the Facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2016 at 10:04 pm

Get the Facts is a registered user.

The homicide last night does not appear to be similar to the Steinle, death, other than it obviously being a tragedy. And I see no news report that calls it "execution style". Not sure why this death was brought to the thread.


4 people like this
Posted by beach bum
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 8, 2016 at 9:35 pm

No Bob, it does not tell me that at all.

It tells me it is a common sense notion that a nation ought to take seriously the notion of controlling it's own borders.

In fact, many if not all of the politicians you support give lip service to this same idea. However nothing gets done.

Do you not get it yet?


4 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2016 at 9:26 am

BobB is a registered user.

beach bum,

I'll go a step further. Look at the details of the polls that say 75% think it is a serious issue. A large percentage of them support some kind of path to citizenship or legal status. A much smaller percentage are worried about "controlling the borders".


Like this comment
Posted by Billie
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 9, 2016 at 11:07 am

Beach bum,

[Removed] we are a nation of laws and illegals are just that, illegal. Want to change that? Change the law. Try to sneak across the border into either Mexico or Canada and see what happens to you. I worked in Canada and every 6 months Revenue Canada would visit our company and we had to show our payroll register against the employees work documents. If we could not show they matched we got a huge fine.

Leadership starts at the top and when the leaders show disregard for the law so does the population. It's already started. The election is rigged and whoever wins will be illegitimate and will not be able to govern.


6 people like this
Posted by Mike Moreno
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 9, 2016 at 12:06 pm

We need to stay civil, guys.
Mike Moreno


2 people like this
Posted by Mike Moreno
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 10, 2016 at 7:48 am

Mike Moreno is a registered user.

We all need to go see Eric Swalwell in Sunol on Sat 13th at 11am. Sunol Glen School,
11601 Main St. You don't need to register. I'm scheduled to work on my car, but if I can go, I will be wearing a "Dont Tread On Me" T-shirt.
Mike Moreno


2 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Aug 10, 2016 at 8:07 am

DKHSK is a registered user.

To say that they come here just to work is gross oversimplification.

According to FAIR, illegal immigrants pump about $1.6b into the California economy, yet they drain $10.5b in services. Roughly $7b in school services, the rest in social services.

What money that is made is largely sent back in remissions to their home country, so any further economic benefit isn't realized. Notice how democrats are calling for a tax on corporations who move offshore but not on these remissions. Funny, huh?

Think about what can be done with just a fraction of that money being reallocated somewhere else.

They are nothing but pawns used by the dems for future votes. Nothing more, nothing less. Unfortunately, a sizable portion of the repubs also see them as potential voters, so the citizen is caught in the middle.

To the politicians on both side, we just pay the bills.


2 people like this
Posted by Mike Moreno
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 10, 2016 at 8:47 am

Mike Moreno is a registered user.

Great comment by DKHSK. Based on facts, not emotion. This is a very complex issue after years of the Obama admin refusing to enforce the laws that we have. It'also true that drugs and guns are smuggled in, causing the death of Americans.
I identify myself because I have a history of being published in the Valley Times, and it's successor. I haven't looked into their editorial stance since the recent takeover, but I lost my contact person. My point was to raise interest in the paper, as well as express an opinion. I was grateful for the forum.
Mike Moreno


8 people like this
Posted by Mynews4me!
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Aug 10, 2016 at 9:06 am

Mynews4me! is a registered user.

Am I the only person who missed that there is also a beautiful story in this article? I love Brad that you kept her dresser and restored for the baby...In Memory of Kate. Lovely story here as well.....


4 people like this
Posted by Mynews4me!
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Aug 10, 2016 at 9:08 am

Mynews4me! is a registered user.

What I meant to say is "Am I the only person that recognized the beautiful story here as well"...


4 people like this
Posted by Mike Moreno
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 10, 2016 at 9:24 am

Mike Moreno is a registered user.

My heart goes out to the Stienle family. Kate was a beautiful, intelligent person doing good in her life. These are the people we need to cherish.
Mike Moreno


Like this comment
Posted by Mike Moreno
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 12, 2016 at 10:33 am

Mike Moreno is a registered user.

I have decided not to waste my time listening or trying to question Swalwell; I have read up on him and he seems to be the complete Obama/Clinton robot/puppet.
How sad for us.
Mike Moreno


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