(SAN FRANCISCO) — A federal grand jury issued an indictment on Tuesday against Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, the undocumented immigrant who was acquitted on state charges of murder and manslaughter last week in the shooting of Kate Steinle.
The Mexican national will now face new immigration and gun charges as announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions; Attorney for the Northern District of California Brian Stretch; and Jill Snyder, special agent in charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Detailed in a press release issued by the Department of Justice’s Northern District of California, the indictment against Garcia Zarate is for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and for being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition. If convicted of the charges, the 47-year-old Garcia Zarate faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Officials said the indictment “merely alleges that a crime has been committed and that Zarate is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
This case is the result of an investigation being led by the ATF.
Last Thursday, Garcia Zarate was found not guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and manslaughter in the homicide case of Steinle. He was found guilty of a lesser charge of gun possession. The shooting of the 32-year-old Steinle on a San Francisco pier in July 2015 ignited a fierce immigration debate that then-presidential candidate Donald Trump seized on as part of his campaign’s proposed crackdown on illegal immigrants and U.S. sanctuary cities.
Garcia Zarate admitted to shooting Steinle, but said he had picked up a gun from under a bench on the pier and it went off accidentally. Steinle was struck in the back and later died at the hospital. Prosecutors argued unsuccessfully that Garcia Zarate handled the weapon carelessly, leading to the shooting.
The not-guilty verdict in the controversial case came as a surprise to the victim’s family and many Americans.
Steinle’s family told The San Francisco Chronicle that they were “saddened and shocked” by the acquittal.
“There’s no other way you can coin it,” said Steinle’s father, James. “Justice was rendered, but it was not served.”
Trump took to Twitter immediately after the decision, stating, “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!”
Garcia Zarate, a Mexican citizen, has been deported from the U.S. five times and has been held under previous convictions for re-entry after deportation. Prior to being charged in the shooting of Steinle, Garcia Zarate had been released from a San Francisco jail following a minor drug charge. Zarate was not turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the city’s sanctuary laws even though a detainer had been issued for him.
On Dec. 1, a day after Garcia Zarate was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges, the Justice Department issued a warrant for his arrest, citing violation of his supervised release.
Garcia Zarate is currently being held in California state custody and is expected to be sentenced in state court on the weapons charge on Dec. 14.
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