Steinle, 32, was walking along the waterfront of the Embarcadero in San Francisco with her father and a friend on July 1,. 2015, when she was shot in the back, allegedly by Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an illegal immigrant and seven-times-convicted felon who had been deported to his home country of Mexico five times. Initial reports at the time had Garcia Zarate as Francisco Sanchez and indicated that she had been shot in the chest.
The jury’s ruling, which reportedly shocked local observers, found Garcia Zarate not guilty of murder, involuntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon (Garcia Zarate was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, which carries a sentence of up to three years; federal immigration officials reportedly said they plan to deport him).
Garcia Zarate, who had a history of nonviolent crimes, was released from the San Francisco County Jail in April 2015 after being held on a 20-year-old marijuana charge, despite a request from federal authorities that he be held for a sixth deportation. The .40 caliber bullet that killed Steinle was fired from a gun stolen from the car of a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger; the defendant claimed he found the gun on the pier and it accidentally discharged three times, prompting him to throw it into the water in fear.
The Steinle tragedy, exploited by then-candidate Donald Trump in his successful presidential campaign, is once more a political football after the now-president again took to Twitter to excoriate the verdict.
“A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case! No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration,” Trump wrote. “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’s attorney, Matt Gonzalez, implicitly cautioned Trump not to cast stones from a glass house.
“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,” Gonzalez said, according to the Washington Post, referring to a probe into alleged Russian election interference being conducted by former RBI director Robert Mueller.
Shortly after her death, Steinle’s family repudiated Trump’s ploy to make political hay out of their grief.
“Donald Trump talks about Kate Steinle like he knows her,” her brother, Brad Steinle, told CNN about two weeks after she was killed. “I’ve never heard a word from his campaign manager, I’ve never heard a word from him. It’s disconcerting. I don’t want to be affiliated with someone who doesn’t have the common courtesy to reach out and ask about Kate, and our political views and what we want.
“Sensationalizing it is not the route we would like to go,” Steinle said. “If you’re going to use somebody’s name and you’re going to sensationalize the death of a beautiful young lady, maybe you should call and talk to the family first and see what their views are.”
Yesterday the family told the San Francisco Chronicle that they’re looking to the future.
“We just want to get this over with and move on with our lives and think about Kate on our terms. Nothing’s been on our terms. It’s been on everyone else’s terms,” her father, Jim Steinle, told the newspaper. “We have never had a second of anger — not a moment. … Frustration, maybe, and sadness for sure, but no anger and no retaliation or vindictiveness or anything like that. We’re not that kind of people. Even if this guy gets 100 years in prison, it doesn’t solve anything; it doesn’t help anything. We would just like people to know … that’s the Steinles’ feelings.”
“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.”