An immigrant in the country illegally, who had been convicted and deported five times, has been acquitted of murder charges.
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, 54, was found not guilty on first-degree and second-degree murder charges in the 2015 shooting death of Kate Steinle, The Mercury News reported. He was also found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
According to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, Zarate aimed a gun at Kate and fatally shot her before throwing the firearm into the San Francisco Bay and fleeing the scene. The defense argued that the shooting was a freak accident.
The defense made the argument the gun was accidentally discharged after Zarate found it wrapped in a towel. They said the bullet ricocheted off a pier before striking Kate in the back.
The jury only found Zarate guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was acquitted of murder charges and involuntary manslaughter. Family members were shocked when they heard the verdict.
“We’re just shocked -- saddened and shocked ... That’s about it,” Kate’s father, Jim Steinle, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “There’s no other way you can coin it. Justice was rendered, but it was not served.”
Jim was walking with his 32-year-old daughter at the time of the shooting. She reportedly died in his arms.
Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said it was a “verdict we were not hoping for.”
“We will respect that decision,” Bastian said. “This is really about the Steinle family. Our hearts go out [to] them.”
President Donald Trump took to Twitter to respond to the verdict.
“A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case!” the president tweeted. “No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration.”
“Department of Justice will continue to ensure that all jurisdictions place the safety and security of their communities above the convenience of criminal aliens," U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions added in a statement. "When jurisdictions choose to return criminal aliens to the streets rather than turning them over to federal immigration authorities, they put the public’s safety at risk."
But defense attorney Matt Gonzalez argued that the “verdict should be respected."
“Before you start tweeting or commenting on this outcome, just reflect on the fact that all of us get these protections,” Gonzalez said. “We get a right to a jury. We get these burdens of proof. We have to respect that a jury that spent this much time on this case got it right.”
A coalition of Bay Area immigrant advocacy organizations offered their condolences to the Steinle family, but warned that the current administration will use this verdict as an opportunity to discriminate against all immigrants.
“Will we allow this tragedy to be used to further an extremist agenda? Or will we come together amidst the grief to advance our deepest values as a society?” the coalition said in a statement. “The administration and xenophobic forces will likely seek to exploit this tragedy once again to demonize all immigrants and bolster support for deporting millions of people who are part of the fabric of our communities.”
As for the Steinle family, they are now just hoping to move on.
"We just want to get this over with and move on with our lives, and think about Kate on our terms," Jim said. "Nothing’s been on our terms. It’s been on everyone else’s terms."
“We have never had a second of anger -- not a moment," the father added. “Frustration, maybe, and sadness for sure, but no anger and no retaliation or vindictiveness or anything like that. We’re not that kind of people.
"Even if this guy gets 100 years in prison, it doesn’t solve anything; it doesn’t help anything. We would just like people to know ... that’s the Steinles’ feelings.”