A Mexican man who had been deported from the US five times before, only to return and fatally shoot a woman on San Francisco’s waterfront, has had his conviction overturned by a California court. José Inez Garcia Zárate killed Kate Steinle on July 1, 2015, after firing a handgun he claimed he had just found under a bench; the bullet ricocheted off the pavement, hit Steinle in the back and caused fatal chest injuries.
Originally charged with murder, Zárate and his lawyers first argued that he’d been shooting at sea lions, then changed their story and claimed the gun “just went off” as he unwrapped it. The SIG P239 pistol, owned by the Bureau of Land Management and stolen from one of their vehicles days before Steinle’s killing, was specifically designed for safe concealed carry and has an array of safety devices to prevent inadvertent discharge. Finally, Zárate was sentenced to three years for possession of a gun as a convicted felon.
Now even that pathetic conviction has been overturned; his lawyers argued that to be “in possession” of a gun you have to know you’re holding it, then successfully convinced California’s First District Court of Appeals that Zárate didn’t know he had the 7″ long, 2-pound weapon in his hand.
Controversially, when Zárate gunned down his 32-year-old victim he was only on the streets because of California’s so-called “sanctuary” laws. ICE had issued a detainer order for him after a March 2015 arrest for drug dealing, but San Francisco authorities refused to honor it — and so he was free to shoot an innocent woman in the back.
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