Kate Steinle was out for a walk on San Francisco’s Pier 14 in July 2015 with her father, Jim Steinle, when a bullet, fired from a stolen gun, hit her in the back after ricocheting off the ground.
The 32-year-old medical equipment sales woman died and a homeless undocumented immigrant, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, was accused of fatally shooting her after he admitted to accidentally firing the gun.
A jury in San Francisco recently acquitted Garcia Zarate of murder and manslaughter charges, instead convicting him gun possession, which is a lesser felony charge. The immigrant, who had reportedly entered the United States five times using illegal means and had several drugs-related charges against him but none of violence, will now be deported back to Mexico.
Defense lawyers claimed the shooting was an accident, saying Garcia Zarate found the gun wrapped in a T-shirt or cloth on the pier just seconds before it accidentally discharged. They claimed their client, who was sitting at the pier, had never handled a gun and was so frightened by the noise that he immediately threw it into the water.
“We’re just shocked — saddened and shocked ... that’s about it,” Jim Steinle told the San Francisco Chronicle. “There’s no other way you can coin it. Justice was rendered, but it was not served.”
Steinle’s tragic death sparked the national debate on immigration policies and sanctuary cities after then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump repeatedly used it as an example to justify his anti-immigration rhetoric and call for harsher rules against undocumented residents.
“I am so proud of the fact that I got dialogue started on illegal immigration. And people in the media — in all fairness, they were very rough on me that first week and then many of them have now apologized to me, and almost everybody’s apologized, because it turned out I was right,” Trump said during a campaign event in Iowa, boasting how Steinle’s shooting death helped his campaign. “Beautiful Kate in San Francisco was shot by an illegal, who was here five times and they couldn’t do anything about it. And believe me, Mexico kept pushing him back because they didn’t want him. Believe me, that’s true.”
The future president, who was lagging behind his Republican rivals at the time, not only exploited the case to gain a strong footing in the presidential race, it also became a lightning rod for him to demonize Latinos, referring to them as “criminals,” “rapists,” “bad hombres” and calling for a “big, beautiful” wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
At the time, the victim’s family also complained about Trump Steinle's death for his own gains.
"Donald Trump talks about Kate Steinle like he knows her," Steinle’s brother, Brad, told CNN shortly after his sister’s death. “I've never heard a word from his campaign manager, I've never heard a word from him. It's disconcerting. I don't want to be affiliated with someone who doesn't have the common courtesy to reach out and ask about Kate, and our political views and what we want."
Their grieving mother shared the same concerns.
“For Donald Trump, we were just what he needed—beautiful girl, San Francisco, illegal immigrant, arrested a million times, a violent crime and yadda, yadda, yadda,” Liz Sullivan told the San Francisco Chronicle months after her daughter’s death. “We were the perfect storm for that man.”
Meanwhile, following Garcia Zarate’s acquittal, Trump took to Twitter to slam the decision.
A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case! No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 1, 2017
San Francisco is a sanctuary city, which means police don’t handover undocumented inmates or their information to ICE agents unless they are connected to a serious crime. Months before the shooting, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department had reportedly refused to tell immigration officials when Garcia Zarate would be released from jail.
Following the shooting, conservatives seized on to this fact to rally against sanctuary cities and reignite the calls to end sanctuary following the verdict.
An illegal immigrant, deported five times, seven time convicted felon with an illegal stolen gun just literally got away with killing an innocent woman in California.— Laura (@211Pine) December 1, 2017
This should officially cancel Liberals’ sanctuary cities bullshit.#KateSteinle
This is ridiculous, this man has been deported 5 times, illegally had a gun with him & then ended up killing someone and the verdict is not guilty? California has some serious problems, sanctuary cities are not safe for the citizens, stop protecting criminals. #KateSteinle— GM 🇺🇸 (@GMconservative) December 1, 2017
What has happened in America, where a jury decides to find an illegal alien, deported 5 times, who murdered #KateSteinle, with an illegal firearm, INNOCENT of murder?— Brandon (@brandongroeny) December 1, 2017
California favors illegals over Americans, this proves it. This will end thanks to Donald Trump, a new America!
However, a number of social media users were quick to call out the blatant hypocrisy of people who are using this verdict to further their anti-immigrant agenda.
The same people demanding justice for #KateSteinle are the same ones who were silent when Heather Heyer got ran over by a Nazi in Charlottesville. Hypocrites.— Remove Trump Now (@Kanisha1Jackson) December 1, 2017
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Michael Macor/File Photo