Undocumented Immigrant Found Not Guilty in Death of Kate Steinle on San Francisco Pier

Kate Steinle/Jose Inez Garcia Zarate
Kate Steinle was killed when Jose Ines Garcia Zarate's gun discharged in July 2015. (Facebook/Handout)

An undocumented immigrant accused in the death of a woman on a San Francisco pier has been found not guilty of homicide.

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm after jurors sided with the defense, which argued that his gun had accidentally discharged when Kate Steinle was fatally shot in July 2015.

Steinle's death made national news with the help of Donald Trump, who cited the case during his bid for the Republican nomination as evidence of the need for stronger border security.

Garcia Zarate had been deported five times prior to his arrest.

The jury of six women and six men considered charges against Garcia Zarate that included murder, assault with a deadly weapon and being a felon in possession of a firearm in the death of Steinle, 32.

“I hope that they do not interpret this verdict as diminishing in any way the awful tragedy that occurred,” said defense attorney Matt Gonzalez.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions quickly took the opportunity to assail San Francisco's sanctuary city policies and those like them.

"When jurisdictions choose to return criminal aliens to the streets rather than turning them over to federal immigration authorities, they put the public’s safety at risk," Sessions said. "San Francisco’s decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle."

In a tweet, President Trump called the verdict "disgraceful."

Addressing the "number of people" who have commented on the case, including "the attorney general of the United States and the president and vice president of the United States," Gonzalez said: 

“Let me just remind them that 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."

Steinle was touring San Francisco with her father when she was shot and collapsed into his arms.

Garcia Zarate said the gun was wrapped in a T-shirt and accidentally fired when he picked it up.

Any mention of his immigration status was banned from Garcia Zarate's trial. His conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm carries a potential sentence of 16 months to 3 years.

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