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Deadly church stabbing suspect’s long criminal history pushes San Jose mayor to call for changes to sanctuary policies

Deadly church stabbing suspect’s long criminal history pushes San Jose mayor to call for changes to sanctuary policies
Photo: SJPD
By Wesley Severson - Published on November 27, 2020.

San Jose Police have released the name of the man who they say stabbed two people to death and injured three others in a savage attack inside Grace Baptist Church on East San Fernando Street Sunday Night.

San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia said at a press conference on Wednesday that the suspect, 32-year old Fernando De Jesus Lopez-Garcia has an extensive and violent criminal past and had been deported to Mexico on 3 separate occasions 

Officials say that Lopez-Garcia had previously served two years in prison for an assault with a deadly weapon conviction and also had prior convictions for disturbing the peace, providing false information to an officer, and resisting arrest.

They say Lopez-Garcia is also currently serving probation after being convicted in San Joaquin County on domestic violence charges. He was released from jail in June. 

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said at the press conference, that during the time of the stabbing, Lopez-Garcia had an active warrant in Santa Clara County for failing to appear in court during proceedings for that domestic violence case.

Liccardo says a federal ICE detainer was supposed to hold Lopez-Garcia in jail but it was ignored because of sanctuary policies in Santa Clara County and he was released.

"In this case, the county received an ICE detainer arrest but did not notify ICE of the defendant's release. He should have been in jail, in federal custody, in drug treatment, or in jail in his own country but not on the streets in our community,” said Liccardo.

Chief Eddie Garcia believes the attack happened as a result of several failures of the sanctuary system. 

"If we don't fix the problems that we have in our criminal justice system where we can't seemingly find a way to hold violent criminals accountable, then nothing works,” said Garcia.

Four of the victims in Sunday’s attack, as reported on by the San Jose Inside, were homeless and one was city employee Nguyen Pham who had been volunteering at the church. 

The names of the two people who were killed have not been released, but we know they are a man and a woman. 

According to KPIX, Lopez-Garcia was homeless and regularly used the services at Grace Baptist Church but was also a volunteer. So far, investigators have not released a motive for the attack but they say Lopez was on drugs at the time. 

Lopez-Garcia is in jail awaiting his court hearings but according to KNTV, his arraignment that was scheduled for Friday has been pushed back by the district attorney’s office until December 3rd due to issues involving the pandemic.