SACRAMENTO, Calif — The gunman who killed his three daughters, a visitation chaperone who was supervising his visit with the children and himself in a Northern California church this week was in the United States illegally, immigration officials said Friday.
David Mora, 39, overstayed his visa after entering California from his native Mexico on Dec. 17, 2018, on a non-immigrant visitor visa, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Alethea Smock told The Associated Press.
She didn't say when his visa expired. But because he overstayed his visa, ICE asked to be notified when he was released from jail last week after he was arrested in Merced County for assaulting a California Highway Patrol officer.
"“This unspeakable tragedy highlights the true cost, unintended or not, of sanctuary policies that prevent law enforcement from protecting its citizens," Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said in a statement on Facebook.
The Merced County Sheriff’s Office told the AP that under California's so-called sanctuary state law, it does not notify immigration officials about in-custody people who are being released, and ICE was never notified. The 2017 state law restricts local law enforcement's cooperation with federal officials except when immigrants are accused of very serious crimes.
On Feb. 28, Rojas killed his children -- Samantha Mora Gutierrez, 10; Samarah Mora Gutierrez, 9; Samia Mora Gutierrez, 13 -- and Nathaniel Kong, 59, during a supervised visit before killing himself.
The shootings at a church in Sacramento occurred during a weekly supervised visitation Mora had with his daughters. Police have revealed no motive but the confirmation that he was in the country illegally provides a possible reason: Mora may have feared being deported and separated from his children.
Sacramento County Sheriff Department released an update Friday saying that Mora "had in his possession an AR style rifle."
"The firearm had no serial number or manufacturer markings and is what the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives refers to as a “Privately Made Firearm (PMF)," the update for the sheriff's office reads.
Law enforcement go on to say that 17 casings were found at the scene, indicating that 17 shots were fired.
Mora was arrested Feb. 23 on charges of resisting arrest, battery on a police officer and driving under the influence. Five days later he opened fire inside The Church in Sacramento.
The weekly visitation was allowed under terms of a five-year restraining order obtained by Mora’s ex-girlfriend, who was the mother of the girls. The order said he had repeatedly threatened to kill her, scared their girls and said he would kill himself.
In a response to a court filing for the order, Mora said he had no guns. His ex-girlfriend also said she was not aware of him having firearms.
It is not clear whether Mora, also known as David Fidel Mora Rojas, faced a significant danger of being deported despite immigration officials' interest after his arrest. Although ICE had asked to be notified of Mora's release, immigration officials did not take any additional steps to deport him after he was released on bail.
Under Democratic President Joe Biden, immigration officials put their priority for deportation on people whom they deem threats to public safety or national security or who recently crossed the border. That’s a departure from the Trump administration, which sought anyone in the country illegally for deportation.
Dazio reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writer Elliott Spagat contributed from San Diego.
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