A jury found Jose Ines Garcia Zarate not guilty of murdering Kate Steinle, who was shot in 2015 on a San Francisco pier, but did find him guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Zarate is an illegal immigrant from Mexico and had been deported several times and has faced convictions for entering the U.S. again after being deported. After Zarate was acquitted, U.S. immigration officials say he will be deported for the sixth time.
AP: U.S. immigration officials say they will deport Mexican man found not guilty of murder in San Francisco pier shooting.— Jon Passantino (@passantino) December 1, 2017
Several months before Steinle’s death he was released from a San Francisco jail upon the dismissal of a minor drug charge.
San Francisco, which is a so-called "sanctuary city," allowed his release despite a detainer that had been issued from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Sanctuary cities limit their ability to comply with the federal government’s initiatives to implement immigration laws.
The defense argued that 32-year-old Steinle had been accidentally shot after a bullet bounced off a concrete walkway and then hit Steinle. Zarate said the gun had gone off accidentally, after he had found it wrapped in a t-shirt under a bench.
Prosecutors argued he intentionally aimed for Steinle while “playing his own secret version of Russian roulette.”
The gun had been stolen from the care of a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger just a week prior to the shooting.
President Trump called the decision "disgraceful."
"A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case! No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration," Trump tweeted Thursday night.
A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case! No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 1, 2017
Attorney General Jeff Sessions also weighed in on the decision.
“San Francisco’s decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle,” Sessions said in a statement after the verdict was given. “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 the 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,” Sessions added. “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.”
San Francisco Superior Court jury determined Zarate was not guilty of first or second degree murder, or manslaughter. Zarate was convicted for being a felon possessing a gun and his sentencing date has not been determined yet. He faces sentences of 16 months to three years in prison.