Mexican man whose killing of woman on San Francisco pier launched national immigration debate found not guilty
It was July 1, 2015, and Kate Steinle was walking with her father on Pier 14 in San Francisco.
But seemingly out of nowhere, a bullet ricocheted off the concrete and struck the unsuspecting 32-year-old in the back, according to NBC News. She died two hours later in a nearby hospital.
On Thursday, a jury found Kate’s accused killer, 45-year-old Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, not guilty on charges of murder, assault with a deadly weapon and involuntary manslaughter, The Washington Post reported. Garcia Zarate, a Mexican citizen who has been deported from the United States five times, was found guilty of possessing a weapon as a felon.
The defense argued that Garcia Zarate, a seven-time felon, found the gun, a Sig Sauer P239, on the pier and accidentally fired it when he picked it up, according to KTVU. That same weapon had been stolen four days earlier from an off-duty Bureau of Land Management Ranger’s car.
There was no proof that Garcia Zarate stole the weapon, but Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia said in her closing argument that the accused killer was playing “his own secret version of Russian roulette,” as reported by NBC.
Yet on Thursday, Garcia Zarate was found not guilty on all of the most serious charges, while ICE said it would work to deport him “following the conclusion of this case.”
The Steinle family did not want to be in court when the jury handed down its decision, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, but said they are “saddened and shocked” by the verdict.
“There’s no other way you can coin it,” Jim Steinle, Kate’s dad, told the Chronicle. “Justice was rendered, but it was not served.”
President Donald Trump often talked about Steinle’s death on the campaign trail, using it to advocate for the construction of his proposed border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border with the aim of keeping out undocumented immigrants like Garcia Zarate.
And he took to Twitter Friday morning to voice his displeasure with the jury’s decision.
As Trump renews his calls to “BUILD THE WALL,” another bill has been making its way through the U.S. Senate that is named after Kate.
In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills, including one known as “Kate’s Law.” The bill named after Kate gives tougher sentences to people who have committed crimes in the U.S. after entering the country illegally multiple times, according to The Hill, while the other takes away some grants from “sanctuary cities.”
But Kate’s family, which has a “decidedly nuanced view on sanctuary cities,” said they are tired of having their daughter used for political reasons, according to the Chronicle.
“We just want to get this over with and move on with our lives, and think about Kate on our terms,” Jim said. “Nothing’s been on our terms. It’s been on everyone else’s terms.”
Instead, they want her to be remembered for the good she brought into the world.
Rebecca Weinrib, a close friend and former roommate of Kate, told The Mercury News that “she was just on the cusp of everything she had ever wanted when she was shot.”
She said Kate had fallen in love with her boyfriend, a lawyer who she wanted to marry some day — and that she was starting to really enjoy her job at Medtronic, a medical device company.
She loved to travel, according to the Mercury News, touring around Europe and visiting South Africa in 2008 to see Nicole Ludwig, a close friend who spent her childhood there.
During that trip, the two spent time with the woman who watched after Ludwig’s mom when she was young.
“We spent time in her hut. Kate had never met her and she goes in there and sits with her and held her hand and listened to her stories,” Ludwig said to the Mercury News. “She was about loving people, getting to know people.”