SAN FRANCISCO—On February 6, Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, the man accused of killing San Francisco resident, Kathryn Steinle pleaded not guilty to two counts of illegal gun possession charges.
In November 2017, a jury found Zarate not guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Steinle. Steinle was shot by a .40 caliber handgun at Pier 14 in the Embarcadero District of San Francisco on July 1, 2015.
Zarate was acquitted on the charge of involuntary manslaughter as well, but was convicted on charges for possession of a firearm. Before jurors revealed the unanimous decision, Judge Samuel Feng announced that the defendant’s immigration status as irrelevant to the trial. Zarate, a Mexican national, has been deported five times and his current residence in the United States has been deemed unlawful by state authorities.
The defendant was last deported in 2009 on drug-related charges. The prosecution had to prove motive and intent on murder charges and negligence for firing the pistol to meet the criterion for involuntary manslaughter. While the prosecution argued that the shot in Steinle’s back was intentional, the defense implicated the entire incident as a tragic accident.
Steinle’s parents filed a lawsuit against local and federal authorities for actions that indirectly contributed to the death of their daughter. Among those Jim Steinle and Liz Sullivan name in their lawsuit include San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
SF Sheriff Mirkarimi oversaw the release of Steinle’s alleged killer Juan-Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, 45, from the custody of local law enforcement. Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, had already been deported from the country five times and convicted of a felony seven times.
Steinle’s parents also question Mirkarimi’s decision not to inform ICE of Lopez-Sanchez’s release.
The parents argue that the BLM was responsible for Lopez-Sanchez being able to acquire the gun that killed their daughter. The gun is believed to have been stolen from the car of a Bureau of Land Management ranger near the pier. The lawsuit alleges that the ranger could have prevented Lopez-Sanchez from obtaining the gun had it been better hidden from view.
President Donald Trump took to Twitter in November 2017 to respond to the verdict of the case.
“A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case! No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration,” wrote Trump.
“The Kate Steinle killer came back and back over the weakly protected Obama border, always committing crimes and being violent, and yet this info was not used in court. His exoneration is a complete travesty of justice. BUILD THE WALL! The jury was not told the killer of Kate was a 7 time felon. The Schumer/Pelosi Democrats are so weak on Crime that they will pay a big price in the 2018 and 2020 Elections.”
The trial has raised discussions about the existence of sanctuary cities throughout the country, like San Francisco. A sanctuary city aims to improve community relations by preventing city officials from asking residents about their immigration status. Zarate will remain in custody, as he awaits sentencing on the felony charges of firearm possession.
Written By Seymone Khaleghi and Casey Jacobs