A jury of six men and six women found Jose Ines Garcia Zarate not guilty of killing 32-year-old Kate Steinle in 2015 in a stunning verdict handed down Thursday afternoon. It convicted him of the lesser charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, though it is not clear he will spend any time in prison.
As the nation absorbs the verdict, one fact remains true: were San Francisco not a “sanctuary city,” Kate Steinle would likely still be alive today.
Zarate, originally identified as Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, has seven previous felony convictions and has been deported from the United States to his native Mexico five times. When he was first arrested in July 2015, he said specifically that he had come to San Francisco because it was a “sanctuary city,” where local law enforcement would not cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to deport him from the country.
As ICE told Breitbart News at the time, Zarate had been held by local authorities in San Francisco in March 2015 on an outstanding drug warrant. ICE filed a detainer request, asking to be notified before his release. But because of San Francisco’s “sanctuary city” policy, local law enforcement did not cooperate with ICE, and Zarate was released in April 2015. He was not supposed to be in the country at all, but was walking around freely in San Francisco.
The prosecution argued that Zarate had deliberately fired the shot that killed Steinle. The defense argued that the shot had been inadvertent and that the gun — which had been stolen some time before from the car of a Bureau of Land Management ranger — was prone to accidental discharges. Zarate had initially told police that he had shot the gun deliberately, though it was not clear he understood their questions. The jury felt there was reasonable doubt.
But regardless, if he had not been in the country, the weapon would never have been in his hands and the bullet would never have killed Steinle as she walked on Pier 14 with her father. San Francisco voters understood that, tossing out Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi in the next local election. But his replacement, Vicki Hennessy, also supports sanctuary city policies. And as of last month, Democrats have turned all of California into a “sanctuary state.”
Zarate will be sentenced for the weapons charge. But the longest sentence he can receive is three years. And the time he has spent in jail thus far will likely count against his sentence. He will be released soon — perhaps even immediately. And it is quite possible, with San Francisco and California still refusing to cooperate with ICE, that he could be out on the street once again. And even if deported, he certainly knows how to sneak back in the country.
Steinle’s death had a profound effect on the 2016 election. Donald Trump was the only candidate in either party to understand its significance. He immediately took up the cause of American families bereaved by illegal aliens. The voters responded by putting him into the White House with a mandate to build a border wall and enforce federal immigration law. That mandate remains as strong as it ever was — regardless of what a San Francisco jury said.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.