San Jose, CA – The San Jose police chief and mayor have demanded the county do away with its sanctuary status in the wake of a horrific stabbing spree that left two people dead.
The brutal attack was allegedly carried out by illegal alien Fernando Lopez at Grace Baptist Church on Nov. 22, according to the San Jose Spotlight.
Two of the five people who were stabbed during the violent spree succumbed to their wounds, San Jose Police Department (SJPD) Chief Eddie Garcia said.
One of the victims was a volunteer and city employee, while the other four were homeless, Chief Garcia told the San Jose Spotlight.
According to witness reports, police believe Lopez, 32, may have been under the influence of drugs at the time of the attack.
Lopez had re-entered the U.S. illegally after being deported three times, according to the Chief Garcia.
The chief said Lopez was “homeless” and had “been a frequent guest” at the church shelter in the past, according to KGO.
Lopez was on probation for a felony domestic violence conviction at the time of the stabbing spree, and had recently been released from jail in connection with a misdemeanor offense in Santa Clara County, the San Jose Spotlight reported.
“It’s the judge’s prerogative, but I still want to know exactly why he was released when he has an extensive domestic-violence criminal history at a time when we know it’s such an important issue,” Chief Garcia told The Mercury News. “If this individual wouldn’t be in custody, who would be?”
Lopez had also failed to appear for a court hearing associated with the misdemeanor charge, according to Chief Garcia.
He was previously convicted of offenses including providing false information to an officer, disturbing the peace, assault with a deadly weapon, and resisting arrest, KGO reported.
Chief Garcia and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said the mass stabbing could have been prevented if it wasn’t for Santa Clara County’s sanctuary policy, the San Jose Spotlight reported.
As it currently stands, local law enforcement officers cannot legally detain illegal aliens, even if federal agents have filed a detainer.
“Currently, the Santa Clara County policy prohibits responding to immigration detainers, which allowed the suspect to be released,” the chief said in a press conference, according to the San Jose Spotlight. “I received the question, ‘What could have prevented this tragedy?’ I won’t point to a single thing, but rather a multitude of tools and opportunities that were not utilized or failed.”
Liccardo said that the county’s policy should be altered to allow detention centers to contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) before releasing illegal aliens who have been convicted of violent crimes, the San Jose Spotlight reported.
“In this case, I’m told that the county received an ICE detainer request but did not notify ICE of the defendant’s release,” Liccardo said, according to KGO. “Changes in our criminal justice system have not made our communities safer. This pendulum has swung too far.”
“As I publicly advocated in 2015, and again in 2019, in those very rare circumstances where an undocumented offender has a record of violent or serious prior convictions, the county should be acting in accordance with the state’s Values Act and notifying ICE that a person will be released out into the community,” the mayor insisted, according to the San Jose Spotlight.
Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith blasted the mayor and the police chief for speaking out against the sanctuary policy, and said they were both being “unprofessional,” the San Jose Spotlight reported.
“This sort of popped up out of the blue with them — basically trying to take advantage of a horrific double-murder, trying to promote their political agenda, which has been talked about, numerous, numerous, numerous times,” Smith alleged. “I think it’s extremely unprofessional. Obviously, with a murder like this, there are many factors that contributed to it. It’s not just the immigrant status. It’s not just methamphetamine use. It’s not just homelessness.”
Activist Shaunn Cartwright claimed that Lopez is actually a “victim” of the “entire system,” according to the San Jose Spotlight.
“Police are doing all these warrant checks all the time and things like that keep people on the run, even when they’re not wanted by police,” Cartwright complained. “You just constantly feel like you’re being harassed, which exacerbates mental health issues. If you’re somebody who’s prone to paranoia, schizophrenia, constantly having police show up just exacerbates your issue.”
“Fernando is a victim as well,” she declared. “He is a victim of this system that does not provide enough low-income housing, enough mental health treatment, enough detox beds, enough rehab facilities…He is a victim of this entire system.”
County Public Defender Molly O’Neal said the county’s sanctuary policy should remain as-is, The Mercury News reported.
She argued that “blaming the county’s non-cooperation policy with ICE for what happened is just another attempt to scapegoat the immigrant community.”
But David Jennings, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in San Francisco, said the county repeatedly refused to respond to notification requests from his agency prior to releasing Lopez, The Mercury News reported.
As a result, the illegal alien was free to murder two innocent people and to put three others in critical condition.
“The only person this policy protected was a criminal,” Director Jennings said.