At roughly 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon, jurors decided the illegal immigrant accused of murdering Kate Steinle was innocent, finding him not guilty of murder and assault with a deadly weapon, but guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
On July 1, 2015, Steinle, 35, was walking with her father Jim and a family friend along Pier 14, a tourist attraction area in the Embarcadero district in San Francisco. Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, an illegal immigrant who had been deported from the U.S. five times, most recently in 2009, and was on probation in Texas at the time, was wandering around the pier and fired one shot from a .40 caliber SIG Sauer P239 handgun that had a seven-cartridge magazine.
The prosecution and defense differed as to what happened; the prosecution stated that Garcia Zarate intentionally aimed a gun at Steinle and fired at her, before throwing the weapon into the bay and fleeing; the defense argued the gun accidentally discharged and the bullet ricocheted on the concrete pier 78 feet before hitting Steinle. The bullet struck Steinle in the back, causing her to scream for help to her father. Despite her father and others performing CPR on her, she died two hours later at San Francisco General Hospital.
Garcia Zarate, who had been released from jail in San Francisco three months before even though federal immigration authorities wanted to detain him for deportation, was arrested about an hour after the shooting at Pier 40; the gun was found in the bay alongside Pier 14 the next day. The gun had been stolen in downtown San Francisco from a Bureau of Land Management ranger's personal vehicle on June 27, 2015.
Jurors had been deliberating since November 21.
Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez offered condolences to the Steinle family, saying, “I hope that they do not interpret this verdict as diminishing in any way the awful tragedy that occurred.” Gonzales also took a shot at the Trump Administration, according to Mercury News, saying it was important to remember that the president, vice president, and attorney general were under investigation themselves and they should appreciate that they would be protected by the justice system.
After Steinle’s death, there was a public outcry against San Francisco and its “sanctuary city” policy; President Trump cited the killing when he was running for president as a reason to tighten U.S. immigration laws. After he was elected, Trump signed an executive order to cut funding from cities that limited cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities.
Ironically, Trump’s action was permanently blocked by a federal judge in San Francisco only three days ago.
In response to the tragedy, in July 2015 Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Matt Salmon introduced H.R.3011, the Establishing Mandatory Minimums for Illegal Reentry Act of 2015, also known as Kate's Law. It would impose a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for any illegal reentry offense. It was passed 55-42, primarily by Senate Republicans, but was filibustered by opponents and the GOP lacked a super-majority to defeat the filibuster.