Kate Steinle’s Murderer Found Not Guilty

By: Nathan Boyd, Senior Contributor

On November 30, 2017, jurors found Mexican citizen Jose Ines Garcia Zarate not guilty of killing Kate Steinle, a 32 year old who was fatally shot on Pier 14 in San Francisco on July 1, 2015. Zarate is an illegal immigrant who had been deported at least five times before crossing the border and residing in the sanctuary city of San Francisco. Steinle’s death sparked national outrage and reignited the debate over sanctuary cities and illegal immigration policies.

The defense argued that Zarate had no intention of killing Steinle. While Zarate admitted to killing Steinle, he claims that firing the Sig Sauer P239 was purely accidental. The bullet ricocheted 12 feet away from Zarate before traveling 78 feet and lodging itself in Steinle’s back, causing her to collapse into her father’s arms. The prosecution argued that Zarate shot a semi-automatic handgun towards Steinle while “playing his own secret version of Russian roulette.”

After the incident, Zarate threw the handgun into the San Francisco Bay and ran away. After being detained by police, he claimed that he accidentally stepped on the gun, which caused it to fire. He also told police that he had been aiming at a seal. Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez said that Zarate found the gun wrapped in cloth and when he unwrapped it, the gun accidentally fired. Jurors acquitted the Mexican citizen of murder and involuntary manslaughter charges, as well as assault with a deadly weapon.

It is still unclear how Zarate came into possession of the firearm, but it is known that the handgun was stolen from a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger’s car four days earlier. Zarate was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and faces up to a three-year sentence. He has already spent over two years behind bars as the case made its way through court.

After the verdict, defense attorney Francisco Ugarte stated, “From Day 1 this case was used as a means to foment hate, to foment division and to foment a program of mass deportation. It was used to catapult a presidency along that philosophy of hate of others.” On December 1, the White House Press Secretary issued a statement saying that, “It’s more important now than ever for Congress to secure our borders and provide the resources, including more ICE officers, needed to deport criminal illegal aliens and to finally stop sanctuary city policies that cause needless loss of innocent life…Had San Francisco enforced our Nation’s immigration laws, the Steinle family would be celebrating this holiday with all of their loved ones.”

The Department of Justice is considering charging Zarate with federal charges after he was found not guilty in the murder trial. U.S. immigration officials have announced that he will be deported for the sixth time after he finishes his sentence.