The illegal immigrant from Mexico who fired the gunshot that killed 32-year-old Kate Steinle on a pier in San Francisco in 2015 was found not guilty of murder by a California jury on Thursday.
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who had been deported five times and had several felony convictions, had been protected by San Francisco’s sanctuary city policies, and local police had refused to comply with a request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold him so that the agency could take him into custody for deportation proceedings.
The prosecutor had said in his closing argument last week that Garcia Zarate had played a game of Russian roulette with a stolen Sig Sauer .40-caliber handgun, shooting it off as Kate Steinle was passing nearby with her father, walking on Pier 14 along the Embarcadero, at the city’s waterfront. The bullet ricocheted off the concrete pier and hit Steinle in the back, piercing her aorta and killing her almost immediately.
The jury deliberated for six days and, in the end, acquitted Garcia Zarate of first and second-degree murder charges and also of involuntary manslaughter. He also was found not guilty of assault with a semi-automatic weapon.
Garcia Zarate was found guilty of just one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a statement following the verdict, saying San Francisco’s decision to provide sanctuary to sometimes dangerous illegal immigrants led to the death of Steinle.
“San Francisco’s decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle.”
“When jurisdictions choose to return criminal aliens to the streets rather than turning them over to federal immigration authorities, they put the public’s safety at risk,” the statement said. “San Francisco’s decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle.”
“San Francisco’s policy of refusing to honor ICE detainers is a blatant threat to public safety and undermines the rule of law. This tragedy could have been prevented if San Francisco had turned the alien over to ICE, as we requested, instead of releasing him back onto the streets,” ICE acting Director Thomas Homan said.
On “The Ingraham Angle” Thursday evening, shortly after the verdict was announced, attorney Harmeet Dhillon, a former vice chair of the California Republican Party, also came down on the political leadership in California.
“This is really an example of the city of San Francisco’s rolling out the red carpet for illegal aliens, and this is the logical net result of that,” she said.
But it’s worse now in California, since Gov. Jerry Brown declared the entire state a sanctuary state earlier this year, said Dhillon.
“Every citizen in California can look forward to this type of situation occurring if we don’t protect our borders,” she told host Laura Ingraham.
Speaking to reporters after the verdict was announced, Garcia Zarate’s defense attorney offered condolences to the Steinle family but then got political, saying:
“For those who might criticize this verdict, there are a number of people that have commented on this case in the last couple of years — the attorney general of the United States, the president and vice president of the United States — let me just remind them that they are themselves under investigation by a special prosecutor in Washington, D.C., and they may themselves soon avail themselves of the presumption-of-innocence-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard, so I ask them to reflect on that before they comment or disparage the result in this case.”
Garcia Zarate is facing 16 months to three years in prison for the one charge of possession of a firearm, though time served will count against this.
(photo credit, homepage and article images of Kate: The Steinle Family)