Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, formerly known as Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, has been acquitted of murder following the July 2015 shooting death of 32-year-old Kate Steinle in San Francisco, California.
A jury on Thursday found the 48-year-old Mexico native not guilty on charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to first-degree murder. He was found guilty of felony possession of a firearm, which carries a potential sentence of 16 months to three years.
The case gained national attention during the presidential primary campaign as it was used as an example by conservatives who argued for why there needed to be stricter regulations on immigration as Garcia Zarate had been deported five times and was to be deported again when the shooting occurred.
Jurors deliberated for six days total and rejected possible charges of involuntary manslaughter and first-degree murder, the Associated Press reported. It appears the jury agreed with the defense argument that it was an accident.
The Steinle family did not attend the reading of the verdict on Thursday.
“We’re just shocked — saddened and shocked. That’s about it. There’s no other way you can coin it. Justice was rendered, but it was not served,” her father Jim Steinle told The San Francisco Chronicle about the final verdict on Thursday.
“I’m stunned that they couldn’t even get him on using the weapon,” Kate’s brother Brad said.
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On July 1, 2015, Kate was fatally shot while walking on San Francisco’s Pier 14 with her father Jim. She suffered a single gunshot wound to her torso.
Lawyers for Garcia Zarate, who was accused of fatally shooting Kate with a Sig Sauer .40-caliber handgun, claimed the incident was an accident that happened when the defendant found the stolen gun, which reportedly belonged to a federal agent, and it accidentally went off with a single bullet ricocheting off the pavement before striking Kate in the back.
However, San Francisco police inspector John Evans offered a different perspective in his testimony. Evans argued that the bullet traveled in a straight line, which suggested that Garcia Zarate was pointing the gun at Kate.
In addition, San Francisco Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia said Garcia Zarate created a risk of death by bringing the firearm to the pier and twirling around on a chair for at least 20 minutes before he fired.
Before the July 2015 incident, Garcia Zarate finished a federal prison sentence for illegal re-entry into the United States and was transferred to San Francisco’s jail in March 2015 and faced a 20-year-old charge for selling marijuana. When the charge was dropped he was released, despite federal immigration officials requesting he be detained so he could be deported.
San Francisco is a sanctuary city, which means that it limits the use of its funds and resources to assist enforcement of federal immigration laws.
President Trump has signed an executive order to withhold funding from sanctuary cities but a judge blocked the order following a lawsuit by two Californian cities – the White House has since appealed.