Jury finds undocumented immigrant not guilty of murder of Kate Steinle

Vladstudioraw/iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) — A jury has found Jose Ines Garcia Zarate not guilty in the murder of Kate Steinle, the woman whose shooting death on a San Francisco pier in 2015 provoked an immigration debate.

Zarate was found not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter. However, he was found guilty of possession of a firearm.

Zarate, of Mexico, had been deported several times and has previous convictions for re-entry after deportation. Before the killing, he had been released from a San Francisco jail after a minor drug charge was dismissed. While U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had issued a detainer for Zarate, he was released under the city’s sanctuary laws.

Zarate had claimed he found the gun used in the shooting wrapped in a T-shirt under a bench and that it went off accidentally. But prosecutors argued he carelessly pointed the weapon at people. The Bureau of Land Management previously said that the gun belonged to one of its enforcement rangers and was stolen from a federal agent’s car.

The case gained national attention during the 2016 presidential race when then-candidate Donald Trump cited it as an example of why the sanctuary cities, which limit a city’s cooperation with the federal government’s efforts to enforce immigration law, should be ended.

Steinle’s father, James Steinle, who was with her when she was shot, took the stand for the prosecution back in late October, and in emotional testimony, described not understanding what had happened to his daughter initially. When he saw something was wrong, James Steinle said he grabbed her and noticed what appeared to be a bullet wound. He said he provided CPR until paramedics arrived.

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