Illegal immigrant acquitted of murder in politically charged San Francisco trial

Posted December 01, 2017

A homeless, undocumented immigrant was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges by a San Francisco jury late Thursday, in a case that drew national attention to so-called sanctuary city policies.

When a bullet from a gun in the hands of Jose Garcia-Zarate, a non-citizen in the US who had been arrested and deported multiple times, ricocheted off the ground and killed sightseer Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier in July 2015, it set off a national debate, which then-candidate Donald Trump inflamed, over the merits or demerits of certain cities' policies of not actively enforcing federal USA immigration law or cooperating in handing over illegal immigrants to federal authorities.

Garcia Zarate said he found the stolen gun wrapped in a shirt under a chair on a pedestrian pier and that the weapon accidentally fired when he picked it up.

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, 45, was found not guilty on all counts in the 2015 shooting, except for felony possession of a weapon.

Garcia Zarate had been deported five times and was wanted for a sixth deportation when Kate Steinle was fatally shot in the back while walking with her father on the pier. Visit for more information on this news.

Federal immigration officials said they will try to deport Garcia Zarate. They say San Francisco's status as a "sanctuary city" limits their cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities. Since taking office, Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from places with similar sanctuary city laws.

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In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed "Kate's Law", named for Steinle, that would increase penalties for illegal immigrants who return to the United States.

"There was a tremendous amount of misinformation that was spread about this case from day one", San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi told reporters outside the courtroom.

The fatal bullet struck concrete about 12 feet away from the defendant and traveled another 78 feet to hit Kathryn Steinle.

Prosecutors said he meant to shoot and kill her.

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump cited the Steinle killing as a justification for his intended crackdown on immigration. "San Francisco's decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle".

President Donald Trump blasted a California jury that acquitted a Mexican immigrant who was in the US illegally in the shooting death of a woman in San Francisco two years ago after local officials let the man go while he was awaiting deportation. Before the verdict, they told the San Francisco Chronicle that above all, they were looking forward to no longer being in the spotlight. On April 15, 2015, Zarate was freed from the San Francisco County Jail. The maximum sentence he faces is three years, according to a detailed report on the outcome from Vivian Ho at the San Francisco Chronicle.