Family of man killed with stolen police gun move toward legal action

The family of a man killed with a San Francisco police officer’s handgun after it was stolen from an unattended vehicle this summer are pursuing legal action against the officer who lost the weapon.

Abel Esquivel was shot and killed near 26th Street and South Van Ness Avenue Aug. 15, just days after the theft of a .38-caliber revolver belonging to officer Marvin Cabuntala.

Esquivel was survived by his mother and sister, who say that Cabuntala failed to follow California Penal Code section 25452, passed in 2016, requiring that police officers leaving handguns in unattended vehicles must use locked containers hidden out of plain view just like civilians.

They held a news conference this morning at the Burlingame law offices of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, to announce that they’ve filed an administrative claim against Cabuntala – one of the steps involved in filing a lawsuit.

Attorney Allison Cordova said in a statement:

“Unfortunately, law enforcement officers have become brazenly comfortable with failing to properly secure their lethal weapons. … Despite efforts by legislators to stem this rampant problem and create measurable and impactful consequences, law enforcement officers and agencies are still failing to secure lethal weapons, and furthermore, escaping the consequences.”

Cordova added:

“Instead, the family of Abel Esquivel suffers. … Just like the family of Kate Steinle.”

The San Francisco Police Department did not respond to a request for comment on the Esquivels’ complaint.

Three suspects accused of participating in the shooting have been identified as Jesus Perez-Araujo, Daniel Cruz and Erick Garcia Pineda — an undocumented immigrant.

The case drew national scrutiny after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials criticized the sheriff’s department for releasing Pineda after a domestic violence arrest in accordance with San Francisco’s Sanctuary City policies.

Pineda was subsequently arrested again and placed into removal proceedings before the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review.

ICE spokesman James Schwab did not respond to requests for an update on Pineda’s case.