Garcia Zarate acquitted of homicide in Kate Steinle's death

Garcia Zarate acquitted of homicide in Kate Steinle's death

A jury on Thursday found Jose Ines Garcia Zarate not guilty of homicide charges in the July 2015 death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco.

A photo of murder victim Kate Steinle, right, is placed on an easel as her father Jim Steinle (second from left) prepares to testify about her murder during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on US immigration enforcement policies, on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 21, 2015.

Despite being acquitted of murder, Garcia Zarate, 54, was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter said Steinle "would still be alive if we had a wall", referring to President Trump's call for the construction of a border wall between the USA and Mexico. "We were the ideal storm for that man".

The case became a lightning rod for Trump and others in the push to halt illegal immigration and penalize so-called sanctuary cities, including San Francisco.

A prosecutor said in her closing arguments November 20 that Zarate was "playing his own secret version of Russian roulette" when he shot and killed Steinle in July 2015.

Steinle, her father and a friend were at the pier when a bullet struck Steinle's lower back and tore through her abdominal aorta, authorities said.

Garcia Zarate, a Mexican citizen, is subject to immediate deportation.

The case came down to a question of intent.

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In an interview with local media, Zarate said he had made his way to San Francisco because he knew he would be less likely to be deported because of the city's sanctuary policies. Garcia Zarate didn't deny shooting Steinle and said it was an accident. Matt Gonzalez of the public defender's office said his client had never handled a gun and was scared by the noise, prompting him to fling the weapon into the bay, where a diver fished it out a day later.

"While the State of California sought a murder charge for the man who caused Ms. Steinle's death-a man who would not have been on the streets of San Francisco if the city simply honored an ICE detainer-the people ultimately convicted him of felon in possession of a firearm".

"Her death was preventable - and it should have been prevented", Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in July.

After the verdict, Jim Steinle told the Chronicle he was "saddened and shocked".

Garcia Zarate said he found the stolen gun wrapped in a shirt under a chair on a pedestrian pier and that the weapon accidentally fired when he picked it up. A federal judge dismissed the family's claims against San Francisco and former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi earlier this year.

Before the shooting, Garcia Zarate had been released from a San Francisco jail despite a request by immigration authorities that he be detained for deportation.

In June, the House of Representatives passed "Kate's Law", a measure named for the victim that would increase maximum prison penalties for immigrants caught repeatedly entering the United States illegally.

The measure was introduced in the Senate but failed to get the 60 votes needed to pass.

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