Not guilty verdict in shooting by illegal immigrant offers sanctuary from common sense
|| LA Daily News | Doug McIntyre
“As a rule, I don’t offer opinions about books I haven’t read and movies I haven’t seen. I feel the same way about trials I haven’t followed. I mean really followed, the way the whole country hung on every twist in the O.J. Simpson case.
Last week, a jury in San Francisco acquitted Jose Ines Garcia Zararte of murder in the 2015 shooting of Kate Steinle. While I was aware the trial was taking place, I wasn’t in the courtroom when the prosecution and defense teams made their arguments. I didn’t read transcripts of the witnesses’ testimony, only cursory news reports that would occasionally catch my eye. Still, I was predisposed to believe Zarate guilty.
It’s fortunate for Mr. Zarate I wasn’t on the jury.
To recap, on July 1, 2015, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an illegal immigrant with a history of arrests who had previously been deported 5 times, claims he found a gun wrapped in cloth under a bench along the waterfront in San Francisco. The gun went off/was fired — depending on which version of his story you believe — striking 32-year old Kate Steinle in the lower back. The bullet tore through Kate’s abdominal aorta, ending her life.
Surveillance video led police to Zarate, then going by the name of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, one of several aliases he used. The Steinle case blew up in the media not just because Kate was a beautiful young woman struck down in broad daylight while walking with her dad, but also because it shoved the disaster of San Francisco’s sanctuary policies onto the front burner, an issue that helped propel Donald Trump to the White House.
Zarate was eligible for a 6th deportation at the time of the shooting. Had then-San Francisco County Sheriff Ross Mirarimi held him for deportation, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement has requested, he would not have been sitting on that bench to find a gun or anything else.
Zarate told investigators the gun went off accidentally when it fell to the ground after he unwrapped it. Then he changed his story, telling police he stepped on the gun, causing it to go off. But his story changed yet again; this time he admitted he fired the gun but said he was aiming at a seal.
What’s not in dispute is Zarate tossing the gun into San Francisco Bay before running from the scene.
During the trial, it was revealed the bullet that killed Ms. Steinle ricocheted 12-feet from where Zarate stood and struck Kate 78 feet away. This makes it highly unlikely Zarate was deliberately aiming at Kate and may well have led to the not guilty verdict.
By centering their case around the theory Zarate was playing a perverse game of Russian Roulette — firing randomly at passersby — the prosecutors may have overplayed their hand and undermined their credibility with the jury.
Still, the judge had given the jurors the option of finding him guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter. Amazingly, or perhaps not if you consider we’re talking about San Francisco, they only found Zarate guilty on a minor gun charge.
Jose Garcia Zarate’s immigration status and previous arrests were never introduced as evidence in this case. “Nothing about his immigration status, nothing about the fact that he is born in Mexico had any relevance as to what happened on July 1st, 2015”, said his defense attorney.
And that’s true to a point.
But there is another point — if San Francisco had turned Zarate over to ICE as requested, Kate Steinle would be alive today.
If San Francisco didn’t advertise, literally, on bus benches and public transit, they’re a sanctuary city, Jose Zarate may not have chosen San Francisco as his American destination.
“We just want to get this over with and move on with our lives,” said Kate’s father, Jim, after the jury’s verdict was announced. “We want to think about Kate on our terms. Nothing’s been on our terms. It’s been on everyone else’s terms.”
And, of course, he’s right. Kate Steinle’s death became a political football in the 2016 presidential election and remains so to this day. Sadly, Kate is hardly the only victim of illegal immigrant violence.
In Los Angeles, some of us will never forget the 2008 murder of Jamiel Shaw II by a convicted gangbanger, Pedro Espinosa, who had been behind bars 24 hours before killing Shaw. I will never forget introducing Jamiel’s dad to Danielle Bologna, whose husband and two sons were also murdered by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco.
Or Don Rosenberg whose son, Drew, was run down and killed by Roberto Gallo, then living and driving illegally in the City by the Bay. The list of the dead is far too long for this column.
Kate Steinle’s death furrowed Don Lemon’s brow on CNN as he tried to comprehend the strange term “sanctuary city,” as if he had never heard it before, but those of us in Los Angeles have had 39 years’ experience with sanctuary policies, ever since Special Order 40 was implemented by the LAPD back in 1979. Proponents claim it makes America safer. Tell that to Jim Steinle.
ICE will once again attempt to deport Jose Garcia Zarate. Will San Francisco cooperate this time? And if so, how long before he’s back in the United States, thanks to our porous borders and the unwillingness of cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles to enforce our own laws?”
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