A San Francisco jury found Jose Ines Garcia Zarate – a seven-time felon and an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times – not guilty of murdering Kate Steinle on a pier on July 1, 2015.
Instead, on Thursday, the jury of six men and six women convicted Zarate, a 45-year-old Mexican citizen, of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The jury included “three immigrants,” according to USA Today.
Steinle, a 32-year-old Pleasanton resident, was randomly shot on Pier 14 in the sanctuary city of San Francisco, touching off a major national debate about the policies followed by more than 300 U.S. cities that welcome and harbor criminal illegal aliens. Steinle had been walking along the pier with her father and a friend when a bullet pierced her back and ripped through her abdominal aorta.
While Zarate was charged with second-degree murder, the jury was given the option of first-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter. They were asked to decide whether Zarate committed murder or shot Steinle with a Sig Sauer .40-caliber handgun by accident.
Zarate, who had been homeless, claimed he found the handgun on the pier and accidentally fired it when he picked it up. He said the bullet ricocheted before it hit Steinle. However, he reportedly told police interrogators that he fired the gun on purpose and was aiming at a seal.
But prosecutors said he had the gun all along and was playing his own “secret version of Russian roulette” when he fired the weapon into a crowd on the pier, and the bullet struck Steinle. After he shot Steinle, Zarate tossed the gun into the San Francisco Bay and was captured on surveillance cameras running away. Police found gunshot residue on his hand.
It was later determined that the gun had been stolen four days earlier from a car belonging to a federal agent with the Bureau of Land Management. Now Steinle’s family is suing the agency.
Steinle’s father said his daughter’s last words to him, as he held her in his arms, were, “Help me, Dad.”
Steinle’s parents weren’t present in the courtroom when the verdict was read. But her father told the San Francisco Chronicle that the decision stunned him.
“We’re just shocked – saddened and shocked … that’s about it,” he said. “There’s no other way you can coin it. Justice was rendered, but it was not served.”
President Trump campaigned on the sanctuary city issue last year and frequently mentioned Steinle and her parents on the campaign trail.
“This senseless and totally preventable act of violence committed by an illegal immigrant is yet another example of why we must secure our border immediately,” Trump said in July 2015. “This is an absolutely disgraceful situation and I am the only one that can fix it. Nobody else has the guts to even talk about it. That won’t happen if I become president.”
In a tweet hours after Thursday’s verdict, Trump called it “disgraceful.”
“No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration,” he wrote.
Trump sent out more tweets about the case before sunrise Friday, calling the verdict “a complete travesty of justice.”
“BUILD THE WALL!” he wrote.
Before the shooting, San Francisco had declined to turn Zarate over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It’s unclear whether Zarate will now walk free or if he will be deported back to Mexico for a sixth time.
He has used several aliases in the past, including Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez.
As WND reported in June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 3004, known as “Kate’s Law,” which sought to increase penalties on illegal-immigrant criminals who try to re-enter the country, and another bill cracking down on sanctuary cities.
Republicans had tried to pass Kate’s Law since her death, and they were hoping the bill could finally become law under President Trump, who supported it. President Barack Obama had opposed it. But the measure failed to get the required 60 votes in the Senate to pass.
Less than an hour after the verdict was released, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released the following statement:
When jurisdictions choose to return criminal aliens to the streets rather than turning them over to federal immigration authorities, they put the public’s safety at risk. San Francisco’s decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle. While the State of California sought a murder charge for the man who caused Ms. Steinle’s death – a man who would not have been on the streets of San Francisco if the city simply honored an ICE detainer – the people ultimately convicted him of felon in possession of a firearm. The Department of Justice will continue to ensure that all jurisdictions place the safety and security of their communities above the convenience of criminal aliens. I urge the leaders of the nation’s communities to reflect on the outcome of this case and consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement officers.
The Justice Department is now considering bringing federal charges against Zarate after his not guilty verdict, a spokeswoman told Fox News on Friday.
“We’re looking at every option and we will prosecute this to the fullest extent of the law because these cases are tragic and entirely preventable,” Sarah Isgur Flores said on “Fox & Friends.”
She also pleaded with local governments to “reconsider” sanctuary policies.
“This is a person who had been deported five times — he knew about San Francisco’s sanctuary policies. This is a person that never should have been on that pier, and Kate Steinle would still be alive,” she said.
Matt Gonzalez, the lead lawyer for Zarate, responded to criticism of the verdict with a mention of the Russia investigation now engulfing the Trump administration, reported the Washington Post.
“For those who might criticize this verdict — there are a number of people who have commented on this case in the last couple of years …. Let me just remind them they are themselves under investigation by a special prosecutor in Washington, D.C. and they may soon avail themselves of the presumption of innocence beyond a reasonable doubt, so I ask that they reflect on that before they comment or disparage the results of this case.”