Kate Steinle killer cleared of murder charges; DOJ files arrest warrant

On Thursday afternoon, after six days of deliberation, a jury of six men and six women returned a verdict of not guilty in the July 1, 2015 shooting death of Kate Steinle by a homeless, undocumented immigrant.

Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, 45, a Mexican citizen residing in the U.S. illegally on the streets of San Francisco, was acquitted of first and second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm charges.

The jury found Garcia Zarate guilty of a lesser charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, however, a sentence which carries up to three years in prison. Garcia Zarate may serve less time since he has already served over two years in prison and receives credit for time already served under California’s jail credit system.

While Garcia Zarate admitted killing Steinle, defense attorney Matt Gonzales argued the shooting was an accident. The defense claimed that the defendant found the handgun wrapped in a cloth underneath his seat at a pier. When Garcia Zarate unwrapped the object, the gun discharged unexpectedly.

Meanwhile, the prosecution presented another version of events, maintaining that Garcia Zarate had intentionally killed Steinle. But they were unable to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt given the evidence introduced at trial.

According to the evidence, the .40 caliber bullet which hit Steinle ricochetted once off the pier’s concrete 12 to 15 feet from Zarate. The bullet then traveled 78 feet to where the 32-year old was walking with her father and struck her in the back.

President Trump was quick to condemn the verdict on Twitter, calling it “disgraceful” and a “complete travesty of justice.”

On the campaign trail, Trump used the shooting of Steinle to illustrate the dangers of illegal immigration and make the case for increased border security.

“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,” said Trump two days after Steinle was killed.

Prior to his run-in with the law for killing Steinle, Zarate had been deported five times and was pending a sixth deportation when he shot Steinle.

In 2015, Zarate finished serving a 46-month sentence in Texas for illegally re-entering the U.S. and was sent to San Francisco to face a 20-year old charge for selling marijuana. The marijuana charge was dropped and he was released from county jail.

Zarate shot Steinle while bound by the terms of his supervised release for felony re-entry to the U.S.

On Friday, the Department of Justice unsealed an arrest warrant for Zarate in Texas on the basis that Zarate violated the conditions of his supervised release.

“There is an existing federal detainer that requires this defendant to be remanded into the custody of US Marshals Service to be transported to the Western District of Texas pursuant to the arrest warrant,” explained Department of Justice officials to NPR. 

DOJ is also considering federal charges against Zarate, while Immigration and Customs Enforcement intends to deport him.


[RT News] [CNN] [NPR] [Photo courtesy Vicki Behringer]