The shock waves generated by the verdict in the Kate Steinle murder trial are still reverberating in the news. On early December, a San Francisco jury found the defendant, José Inés García Zarate, not guilty of first and second degree murder, not guilty of assault with a semi-automatic weapon and guilty of felony possession of a firearm. How the jury could ignore facts crucial for the prosecution is beyond belief; the fact that García Zarate had been deported 5 previous times, most recently in 2009 and that he also had 7 prior felony convictions, 3 of which were in the state of Washington for felony heroin possession and manufacture of narcotics was kept from the jury; at the time of the shooting he was on probation in Texas.
Kate Steinle and her father had been strolling along San Francisco’s famed Pier 14 on July 1st 2015 when she was struck by a bullet which damaged her aorta; she collapsed on her father’s arms as she called out “Help me, dad” and the words no father should have to hear “Please dad, don’t let me die” She was taken to a hospital where she died a few hours later. The police arrested García Zarate and charged him with her murder.
At the time of his arrest, he gave his name as Juan Francisco López Sánchez and his age as 45 though listed as 52 in the jail records and these were not the only inconsistencies in his testimony. In the video of his interrogation, he confessed to shooting Kate Steinle; then he went back to his story that he had found the gun wrapped in cloth underneath the bench he was sitting on. He first claimed that he fired at a sea lion and later backtracked and said that the gun fired accidentally while he was picking it up and that the shot ricocheted off the concrete block of the pier and struck Kate on the back.
What is very unclear is the circumstances which led to the gun being found at the park. The .40 caliber Sig Sauer P239 was stolen from the personal vehicle of a Bureau of Land Management agent who had left it, holstered and unsecured in a backpack under the front seat of the vehicle (not the trunk!) The car’s window was broken and the backpack taken.
The Swiss designed Sig Sauer P239 requires a 10 lbs trigger pull to fire, has 4 separate safety implements and contrary to the testimony given at the trial, has no history of accidental discharge; further more, it has never been subject to a recall.
The SF Sheriff’s Department, U S Bureau of Prisons turned García Zarate over to SF authorities for an outstanding drug warrant on March 26, 2015. ICE had issued a detainer for García Zarate requesting that he be held until immigration authorities could pick him up but because of San Francisco’s sanctuary policies which restrict cooperation with ICE only to cases where the alien had both current violent felony charges and past violent felony convictions, when the drug warrant charges were dismissed, García Zarate was released from SF County Jail on April 15, 2015; on July 1st 2015 García Zarate’s and Kate Steinle’s paths tragically crossed.
This is not the first time the city of San Francisco has made headlines for strange and controversial decisions. In 1978, Supervisor Dan White assassinated both Mayor George Mosconi and Supervisor Harvey Milk. The defense argued that White suffered from acute depression and that he was on a sugar rush and committed both murders as the result; even though it was not called that at the time, this became known as the “Twinkie Defense” Unbelievably, the jury bought the argument and convicted him only of voluntary manslaughter. He served 5 years and was released. The verdict triggered riots in certain SF districts.
Presently, a beautiful, vivacious and accomplished young woman, with a bright future ahead of her is dead. Her death has many authors. Had the ICE detainer been honored, she would be alive; had SF not been a sanctuary city, she would be alive, had the southern border not been a sieve, she would be alive; had politicians on both sides not prioritized cheap labor for one side and cheap votes for the other; she would be alive. All those factors loaded the gun, García Zarate just pulled the trigger.
As a final thought, Laura Ingraham in her Fox News show, suggested renaming Pier 14 as Kate Steinle Park. That should be a most fitting tribute. We should start a petition going.