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Feds Seek to Arrest Immigrant Acquitted of Murdering San Francisco Woman

  • VOA News

FILE - Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, arrested in connection with the July 1, 2015, shooting of Kate Steinle on a pier in San Francisco, enters the Hall of Justice for his arraignment in San Francisco, July 7, 2015.

The U.S. Justice Department has filed an amended arrest warrant for Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the undocumented Mexican immigrant found not guilty Thursday of murdering a San Francisco woman, in a case highlighted by President Donald Trump in his crackdown on illegal immigrants.

U.S. prosecutors on Friday announced Garcia Zarate’s conviction on a lesser charge, felon in possession of a firearm, meaning he had violated the terms of his supervised release from prison after nearly four years in custody.

Garcia Zarate’s arrest warrant says he violated his release agreement by possessing the gun that killed Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier two years ago.

A San Francisco Superior Court jury on Thursday acquitted Garcia Zarate of first-degree murder and manslaughter charges, but convicted him of weapons possession. Garcia Zarate had been deported five times and was set to be sent back to Mexico a sixth time when the shooting took place.

He had also been in federal prison for illegally entering the U.S.

With both the arrest warrant from federal prosecutors and a pending sentencing from San Francisco Superior Court, it is not clear which jurisdiction will take precedence.

Garcia Zarate shot and killed Steinle as she was walking across a pier with her father and Garcia Zatare was sitting on a nearby bench.

Prosecutors argued he was playing with a gun, twirling it around his finger, and deliberately fired it intending to hurt anyone passing by.

The defense said the shooting was accidental. It said Garcia Zarate found the weapon wrapped in a cloth under the bench and that it went off when he picked it up.

The lawyers cited testimony from a ballistics expert who said the bullet ricocheted off the ground and hit Steinle in the back.

The gun had been stolen out of the car of a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger. Prosecutors have not challenged the notion that Garcia Zarate had nothing to do with the theft.

As a presidential candidate and after he was elected, Trump repeatedly pointed to Steinle’s killing by an illegal immigrant.

He used the crime as an argument for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and also for signing an executive order denying federal funds to sanctuary cities.

Authorities in sanctuary cities refuse to enforce federal immigration laws that could result in deportation. San Francisco is one such city.

A federal judge recently ruled in favor of San Francisco County in its suit against Trump’s executive order. The administration has appealed.

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