Jose Ines Garcia Zarate Off the Hook in the Murder of Kate Steinle

Kate Steinle, 32 years old, was walking with her father on Pier 14 in San Francisco on July 1, 2015 when out of nowhere, a bullet ricocheted off the concrete and struck her in the back. Steinle died two hours later in a nearby hospital.

In late November of this year, a jury found Kate’s accused killer, 45-year-old Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, not guilty on charges of murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and involuntary manslaughter. Garcia Zarate is a Mexican citizen who has been deported from the United States five times, and was found guilty of possessing a weapon as a felon. The basic question the jury had to decide was whether Garcia Zarate willfully and intentionally fired the single shot that killed Kate Steinle. The prosecution said that Garcia Zarate fired a handgun deliberately in Steinle’s direction, intentionally trying to harm her or others. The defensive side argued that Garcia Zarate, a seven-time felon, found the gun on the pier and accidentally fired it when he picked it up. Furthermore, they argued that the shooting was unintentional, that the defendant found the gun wrapped in a cloth under his seat at the pier and that it accidentally discharged. The defense also offered expert witnesses who testified that the bullet ricocheted off the ground and traveled about 78 feet before striking Steinle.

This case and ruling has sparked the national immigration debate. Garcia Zarate did not deny shooting Steinle and claimed it was an accident. President Donald Trump cited the case during his campaign in an effort to show that the country needed tougher immigration policies. President Trump tweeted, “The Kate Steinle killer came back and back over the weakly protected Obama border, always committing crimes and being violent, and yet this info was not used in court. His exoneration is a complete travesty of justice. BUILD THE WALL!” Many Americans are upset with the fact that he is focusing on the immigration policy and not paying respects to Steinle’s family.

Seniors Ryan Pilkington and Grayson Pearce are very upset with this ruling, claiming it was unjust. When discussing his stance, Grayson says he takes “great pride in our justice system, especially the aspect of being judged impartially by a jury of peers. However, our justice system and this jury let our country down. The defense team’s account of what happened is utterly ridiculous; an illegal immigrant does not randomly find a gun lying on a pier in San Francisco, a city with some of our country’s strictest gun laws, and then proceed to ‘accidentally’ discharge that firearm into the body of Kate Steinle, an innocent, law-abiding American citizen.”  Pearce also went on to say, “Despite all of that, the fact of the case remains that Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an illegal immigrant, should not have been in the United States of America. Without San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy, Zarate would have been kept away from our country and that city after he was deported for the fifth time. The city of San Francisco is to blame for the death of Kate Steinle, the jury’s verdict is a travesty, and sanctuary city policies put American citizens at risk. Sanctuary city policies kill innocent Americans who have their whole lives ahead of them. Everybody’s thoughts and prayers should be with the family of Kate Steinle, and the people of San Francisco should demand a change for their own safety.”

Pilkington, on the same side as Pearce, added, “There should have been proper policies in place that should have kept him out of the country. He should have never been there in the first place, whether he fired the weapon on purpose or whether it was an accident. He had committed crimes in the past and been deported multiple times before returning to the country.”  Furthermore, Pilkington concluded, “Whether it was for his crimes, his deportation, or his undocumented status, he shouldn’t have been in the country. For those reasons, I’m against the verdict. He should pay the price.”

Robin Abcarian, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, claims, “In late October, I attended the trial’s opening arguments. I thought then, and still do, that the ranger who left his loaded gun in a part of San Francisco where parked cars are frequently targeted by thieves bears some responsibility for the chain of events that led to Steinle’s death, though I don’t think he should be charged with a crime.”

Conclusively, the aftermath of Steinle’s death has sparked a nationwide debate over the topic of immigration and sanctuary cities. Whether or not the ruling was just, Steinle’s family is dealing with an immense amount of grief, and one can hope that they receive the closure that they need.