Mexican immigrant acquitted in shooting death of woman in San Francisco

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate has been cleared of his part in the death of Kate Steinle

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate has been cleared of his part in the death of Kate Steinle

San Francisco's "sanctuary city" law bars local officials from cooperating with federal attempts to deport those in the country illegally, and the city had released Garcia Zarate from custody despite a federal detention request.

When a bullet from a gun in the hands of Jose Garcia-Zarate, a non-citizen in the USA who had been arrested and deported multiple times, ricocheted off the ground and killed sightseer Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier in July 2015, it set off a national debate, which then-candidate Donald Trump inflamed, over the merits or demerits of certain cities' policies of not actively enforcing federal US immigration law or cooperating in handing over illegal immigrants to federal authorities.

Defence attorneys said Garcia Zarate found the gun and it accidentally discharged, the bullet ricocheting off the ground at the pier, which is popular with tourists, before striking the woman.

Despite being acquitted of murder, Garcia Zarate, 54, was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Garcia Zarate had been released from the San Francisco jail about three months before the shooting, despite a request by federal immigration authorities to detain him for deportation.

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The jury reached a verdict in six days and convicted Garcia Zarate of possessing a firearm but found him not guilty of assault with a firearm. "He took the life of a young, vibrant, beautiful, cherished woman by the name of Kate Steinle", she said.

"There was a tremendous amount of misinformation that was spread about this case from day one", San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi told reporters outside the courtroom.

"San Francisco's decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle", Sessions said in a statement issued Thursday evening.

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The basic question the jury had to decide was whether Garcia Zarate intentionally and willfully fired the single shot that killed Kate Steinle.

President Donald Trump often cited Steinle's death on the 2016 campaign trail as an example of the dangers of sanctuary cities.

Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez told jurors the shooting was a tragic accident and that prosecutors were pushing a "wild narrative of a desire to hurt someone he does not know". The Bureau of Land Management previously said that the gun belonged to one of its enforcement rangers and was stolen from a federal agent's vehicle.

Before the shooting, Garcia Zarate had finished a federal prison sentence for illegal re-entry into the United States and had been transferred to San Francisco's jail in March 2015 to face a 20-year-old charge for selling marijuana. The administration has appealed. Since taking office, Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from places with similar sanctuary city laws.

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San Francisco became a sanctuary city in 1989. He had been deported five times before. "She would still be alive today if her killer had been imprisoned or deported, as he should have been".

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