By: Kyle James | 10-24-2017 | News
Photo credit: WXPI

Murder Trial Begins For Illegal Immigrant Who Fatally Shot San Francisco Woman

The murder trial has begun for an illegal immigrant from Mexico who fatally shot a woman in San Francisco and fueled the national immigration debate. Jose Ines Garcia Zarate is accused of firing a .40 caliber handgun on Pier 14 in the Embarcadero district. The bullet supposedly ricocheted off the pavement hitting Kathryn Steinle in the back. She died from the wound in a hospital two hours later.

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The shooting ignited the immigration debate and then presidential candidate Donald Trump cited the shooting during his push to build a wall between US and Mexico. Prosecutors argued that Zarate intentionally fired the bullet that killed Steinle and Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia showed jurors the weapon. Garcia told jurors, "It's a very reliable, high-quality gun. It's one that won't go off on accident."

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Garcia Zarate's lawyer, Matt Gonzalez, argued that Zarate did not know he was handling a firearm when he picked up a bundled up t-shirt. Gonzalez argued the weapon went off due to a hair pin trigger without Zarate even knowing what it was, "He did not know he was handling a firearm."

Analysis showed the gun belonged to a Bureau of Land Management ranger who had reported the gun stolen from his parked car a week prior to the shooting. Zarate said he did not know it was a handgun when he picked up the bundled t-shirt from beneath a bench and did not mean to fire the weapon.

The District Attorney described how Kathryn Steinle was walking on the pier on a "beautiful summer afternoon" with her father and a family friend. The group walked passed Zarate who was sitting on the pier, she says he then spun to face Steinle and fired "towards" Steinle who was struck in the back and fell forward. The District Attorney went on to describe Kathryn Steinle's last words, "The only thing she could say was ‘dad, help me, help me. Those would be her last words."

Zarate has a long history of entering the US illegally, he was previously deported five times and was living on the streets of San Francisco. He just finished serving a prison sentence for illegally entering the US when he was transfered to San Francisco County jail to face a 20-year-old marijuana charge which was subsequently dropped. Zarate was then released by the San Francisco sheriff despite a federal immigration request to detain him for deportation.

The sheriff argued that he was complying with the cities sanctuary laws which allowed limited cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The judge has barred any mention of immigration or gun control during the trial.

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