SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A jury's decision to acquit a Mexican in Kate Steinle's murder on a San Francisco pier in 2015 has reignited the fury of critics who in two years have pointed out the death of Steinle as evidence of the need for tougher immigration policies.
President Donald Trump called Friday the verdict of "a farce of justice" and renewed his pressure for a wall on the border with Mexico. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions urged cities like San Francisco to eliminate immigration policies that limit cooperation with federal deportation efforts.
Here we will see how the case developed and why it became entangled in the intense national debate on immigration:
Steinle, a 32-year-old medical device saleswoman, was shot while walking by the popular coastal area of the city the night of July 1, 2015 with his father and a friend of the family who were visiting. His father, Jim Steinle, testified that his daughter collapsed in his arms and said, "Help me dad." He rolled it aside and discovered a bullet hole. She was later pronounced dead in a hospital.
José Ines García Zárate was arrested a short time later. He told the police he found a gun on the dock wrapped in cloth, and that he accidentally fired when he picked it up. The gun was the service weapon of a US Bureau of Land Management ranger, who reported that it was stolen from his car at the end of June.
The shooting sparked immediate criticism of San Francisco's policy of limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities and led to calls for stricter enforcement of federal immigration laws.
García Zárate had been deported five times and was wanted for a sixth deportation when Steinle was shot. Before the shooting, he had ended a federal prison sentence for illegal re-entry to the United States and had been transferred to the San Francisco jail in March 2015 to face a 20-year charge of selling marijuana. The sheriff's department released him a few days after prosecutors withdrew the marijuana charge, despite a request from federal officials to detain him for deportation.
History dominated conservative radio, but it also had Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, saying that San Francisco was bad at letting García Zárate be free. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump repeatedly made reference to Steinle's shots and promised to crack down on sanctuary cities. His administration has moved to restrict funding for such cities, but judges have blocked those attempts.
Proponents of sanctuary policies say they improve public safety by allowing immigrants to cooperate with the police without fear. They also say that arresting people without a warrant just so immigration officials can pick them up is unconstitutional.
García Zárate was charged with murder, and for most of the trial, San Francisco Deputy District Attorney Diana García described him as someone who deliberately ignored the safety of others when he fired the gun . But she spoke more forcefully in her final argument, saying that she had come to the dock with a weapon and a desire to hurt someone, and that she should be convicted of first-degree murder.
His lawyers argued that he found a weapon wrapped in cloth under a chair on the dock, and accidentally shot himself when he picked it up. His forensic experts testified that the bullet that killed Steinle bounced from 15 feet away, something he could not have done intentionally.
The juries found García Zárate guilty of being a criminal in possession of a firearm, which has a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
WHAT CAN COME NEXT:
It is likely that García Zárate has provided sufficient service behind bars considering his time in custody.
But that might not be the end of your legal problems. The Justice Department is considering filing federal charges against him, and at his request, a judge in Texas revealed Friday an arrest warrant against Garcia Zarate issued days after Steinle's shooting. Federal officials say they believe Steinle's shots violated the terms of García Zarate's supervised release after his conviction for illegal re-entry into the United States. UU
The Steinle family, separately, also filed a lawsuit appointing Garcia Zárate and alleges that the Land Management ranger negligently left the gun used in the murder loaded inside a vehicle in San Francisco before it was stolen.