The undocumented immigrant from Mexico who was charged with the fatal shooting of a young woman in San Francisco has been acquitted of murder, manslaughter and assault with a firearm by a jury.
On July 1, 2015, 29-year-old Kate Steinle was killed by a gunshot while walking on Pier 41 in San Francisco with her father and a friend. The bullet struck her in the back.
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, 45, was accused of the deadly shooting, and after a five-week trial and six days of deliberation was only found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
While Zarate never denied that he fired the gun, he maintained that the death of Steinle was a result of an accidental discharge. He claimed to have found the gun wrapped in cloth, and when he picked it up to inspect it, the weapon went off. According to The New York Times, evidence that exonerated Zarate proved that he did not fire at Steinle directly. Rather, the bullet ricocheted off of an object before striking Steinle, establishing there was no intent to murder.
The case became a major point of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s anti-immigration platform, who used Steinle’s death as reasoning to build a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“For anyone that would question the outcome in this case, this jury was deliberating for six days,” Jeff Adachi, the San Francisco public defender, told The New York Times. “There was a tremendous amount of misinformation that was spread about this case from Day 1. You had then-candidate Trump espousing that this was an intentional shooting.”
According to CNN, Zarate’s attorney, Matt Gonzalez, claimed that Zarate found the gun at the pier wrapped in a cloth. It was when he unwrapped the gun that it fired the bullet that hit Steinle.
While a sentencing date has not been established, Zarate’s conviction comes with a maximum sentence of three years in prison. He has served more than two years while awaiting trial, though it’s unclear as of yet if that time will be credited to his sentence. CNN reports that Zarate will be deported to Mexico either before of after his sentencing.