In this day and age in the United States, it takes a tragedy for us to finally discuss the important issues. One such case involved the 2015 death of Kate Steinle, a 32-year-old San Francisco woman who was hit by a .40-caliber bullet fired by Jose Ines Garcia Zarate. Garcia Zarate is a drug offender who was deported from the country five times, and last Thursday, he was acquitted of charges of murder and manslaughter. You can probably guess from there who got angry.
Your first guess was probably Tweeter-in-Chief Donald Trump, and your second guess was probably his alt-right followers. Trump fired off the following the day of the verdict:
And again, just yesterday morning:
Back when Trump was just a presidential candidate (which at this point, feels like an eternity ago), he frequently cited the Steinle case when discussing his views and proposed policies on immigration (namely the border wall), and with Garcia Zarate, Trump was able to put a face to his “bad hombres” narrative.
In the following couple of years, Trump mentioned Steinle by name in his acceptance speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention, and again referenced her case in creating the VOICE office within ICE. The Steinle case energized anti-immigration activists, who blamed the tragedy on loose border restrictions and San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city.
But this was not the narrative that drove the trial of Garcia Zarate.
Judge Samuel Feng diverted the attention from Garcia Zarate’s status as an illegal immigrant and his criminal past to the actual situation at hand—the single man over the larger societal conversation. Was the bullet that took Steinle’s life intentionally shot and meant for her? Ultimately, after four days of deliberation, the jurors unanimously decided that the answer was “no.”
For one, evidence concludes that the bullet fired from Garcia Zarate ricocheted; specifically, the bullet hit the concrete ground 12 feet away from Garcia Zarate (who found the handgun under a bench wrapped in cloth) and traveled 78 feet before fatally striking Steinle. As the jurors believe that the gun was fired accidentally with no intent to harm, Garcia Zarate was not convicted for voluntary manslaughter.
Even with the apparent negligence, Garcia Zarate was given a pass on a conviction of involuntary manslaughter. But again, that goes into the defense’s argument that the entire event was an accident without criminal negligence, with the jury seeming to not be convinced of the “criminal” part of that. Still, Garcia Zarate could not escape one charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He is expected to be deported for a sixth time.
“Justice was rendered, but it was not served,” father Jim Steinle, who held his daughter as she died on the pier, told the San Francisco Chronicle. The Steinle family have no opposition towards sanctuary cities, instead blaming various decisions made by federal and local governments for why the incident was able to happen in the first place.
Meanwhile, conservative members of Congress and members of the alt-right continue to use Steinle’s name in pushing their immigration views. A measure from the House called “Kate’s Law” seeks to increase sentences for repeated illegal re-entry into the country, and alt-right groups such as the Bay Area Alt Right, who reportedly created the candles and flowers memorial left in Steinle’s memory at the pier where she was killed, continue to push their radical agenda.
The justice system did its work, and the rhetoric will continue to heat up while Garcia Zarate will likely again be booted from the country. Meanwhile, all the Steinles want is some peace, in memory of their daughter. As Jim told the Chronicle, “We just want to get this over with and move on with our lives, and think about Kate on our terms. Nothing’s been on our terms. It’s been on everyone else’s terms.”