Update: On Thursday, a jury rendered a decision: they found Garcia-Zarate not guilty on murder charges. A federal case may be opened up in his case, according to media reports.
A Mexican immigrant was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in San Francisco on Thursday, Nov. 30, in the politically charged shooting and death of a woman, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The case against Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who immigrated illegally to the United States, became a rallying cry for President Donald Trump during his campaign for the White House, as he pushed to halt illegal immigration and penalize so-called sanctuary cities, including San Francisco.
Zarate, who had been deported to Mexico five times since first entering the U.S. as a juvenile, said the July 1, 2015, shooting of Kate Steinle on a pier in San Francisco, was an accident.
The San Francisco jury, while acquitting him of murder and manslaughter charges, found him guilty of the lesser charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter covering the case said on Twitter.
A father is recounting his daughter, Kate Steinle’s last moments alive before she was murdered on San Francisco Pier 14.
Jim Steinle said that he heard a “bang” and then saw his daughter collapse in his arms.
“Help me, dad,” were her three final words, The Associated Press reported.
“I couldn’t figure out what was wrong,” he told a courtroom as he tried to hold back tears. “She didn’t have any health problems.”
He saw her drop to the ground, her eyes were closed, and she had problems breathing.
After he rolled his daughter on her side, he lifted up her shirt and saw what was wrong: a bullet hole. Then he saw the blood.
Paramedics arrived on the scene and rushed her to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
A witness also took the stand in the trial—with the help of an interpreter. Michelle Lo was on vacation with her family in San Francisco when she saw a man in black who “looked like a homeless person” and was spinning around in a chair “grinning and laughing” in a manner that made her feel uncomfortable, Fox reported.
Kate Steinle trial features testimony of witness to killing by illegal immigrant https://t.co/8K8teqXUXb
— Fox News (@FoxNews) October 24, 2017
As Lo and her family continued down the pier, she recalled, she heard a “very sharp scream” and saw a woman on the ground. She saw the man in black walking away, Fox reported.
She took photos of the scene, showing both Steinle and the defendant, Jose Ines Garcia-Zarate, an illegal immigrant. At the time of his arrest, Garcia-Zarate went by the name Juan Francisco López-Sánchez.
Garcia-Zarate, 54, admits shooting Steinle but claims it was an accident.
The woman’s death has been invoked by a number of officials—namely President Donald Trump—saying that illegal immigrants often bring crime. Garcia-Zarate had been deported five times in the past.
Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia showed jurors the handgun that he used.
— Black & Conservative (@derrickwilburn) October 4, 2017
“It’s a very reliable, high-quality gun,” Garcia said, AP reported. “It’s one that won’t go off on accident.”
Garcia-Zarate’s lawyer, Matt Gonzalez, said that his client didn’t know that he had picked up a gun when he found it under a bench. He claimed that it was wrapped in a T-shirt.
“He did not know he was handling a firearm,” Gonzalez said.
He added, “This gun is inherently dangerous in the hands of someone who isn’t properly trained.”
The gun belonged to a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger who had reported it stolen from his parked car a week prior to the shooting.
If he’s convicted of second-degree murder charges, Garcia-Zarate could face 15 years to life in prison.
Reuters contributed to this report