San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Police Chief Eddie Garcia are urging Santa Clara County to change its sanctuary city policy after they heard that an undocumented suspect responsible for a church stabbing is a repeat felon who has been deported three times.
Fernando De Jesus Lopez-Garcia, stabbed five people on Nov. 22 at around 8 p.m. at the Grace Baptist Church in San Jose.
“The first unit arrived on scene within two minutes of the first 911 call. Callers reported that a male was actively stabbing people in the church. Callers reported the suspect was still in the church, armed with a knife. Another told a dispatcher that a man was going crazy, stabbing people and there was blood everywhere,” said Garcia.
A man died at the scene. A woman died at a local hospital. Three others are in serious but stable condition.
The church is a homeless shelter, providing meals and shelter services. The suspect is homeless and took shelter at the church before. He was charged with two murder counts, three counts of attempted murder, battery on a spouse or cohabitant, and violating a protective order. He was arrested twice last year and released on unknown dates, but the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was never notified. In a response to the tragedy, ICE stated that if the immigration detainers were honored and that ICE was notified, they would have taken him away.
“Our hearts go out to the loved ones of the two victims who perished in this attack. And we pray for the rapid and full recovery of the three surviving victims,” said Liccardo.
The mayor said the tragedy could have been avoided, stating multiple system failures such as getting people off the street and into housing, finding a more balanced approach to the criminal justice system, and notifying ICE when a violent undocumented immigrant is released out into the community—something he has been advocating for the last five years.
“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 unless ICE responds. In this case, I’m told that the county received an ICE detainer request, but did not notify ICE of the defendant’s release,” said Liccardo.
The California Values Act, also known as SB 54, was passed in 2017 to prevent state and local resources from helping the federal government to carry out mass deportations.
But there are exceptions if the person is convicted of a serious, violent, or state prison felony.
The Mayor is urging the county to follow the law.
Motivation for the stabbing is uncertain. Witnesses said the suspect did seem to be under the influence of drugs, but the police have not confirmed it at this point.