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Man Acquitted in San Francisco Pier Shooting Sentenced on Gun Charges

The man who was acquitted of homicide after a woman was fatally shot on a San Francisco pier in 2015 was sentenced Monday to time served on federal firearms charges.

José Inez García Zárate, a Mexican national, was charged in 2017 for being a criminal and an undocumented immigrant in possession of a firearm and ammunition. The federal indictment came immediately after García Zárate was acquitted in San Francisco County Superior Court of the homicide of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle.

The case and acquittal captured national attention after President Trump tried to use them to ignite fervor against illegal immigration during his first campaign and term in office.

Despite the acquittal, García Zárate remained in custody on the federal charges and has spent nearly seven years in prison since his arrest in 2015.

The Associated Press reported that U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria granted García Zárate a prison sentence but that he would not be released. Instead, he will be sent to Texas where he will face federal immigration charges and deportation.

“If you come back to this country and you are back in front of me, I will not spare you. Let this be your final warning: do not return to this country,” Chhabria said Monday, according to The Associated Press.

Prior to the incident, García Zárate had been deported from the United States five times after arriving from Mexico.

He had been flown to San Francisco to face a two-decade-long marijuana charge that prosecutors eventually dropped, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. He was released despite a federal immigration hold.

On July 15, 2015, Steinle was walking along Pier 14 in San Francisco with a friend and family member when she was hit in the back by a bullet fired by Zárate, who was seen on a nearby chair, according to court documents.

Steinle, 32, was taken to a local hospital, where she died.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the bullet fired from the pistol hit the concrete floor before ricocheting off Steinle. The firearm itself had been stolen days before the shooting from a US Bureau of Land Management vehicle.

The defense said García Zárate found the gun that day under the chair he was sitting in, wrapped in a T-shirt or cloth, the Chronicle reported. He immediately dropped the gun as it detonated, the Chronicle said.

The prosecution was conducted by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. George Gascon.

Ultimately, jurors acquitted García Zárate of murder and manslaughter, but found him guilty of a firearms possession charge after six days of deliberation.

The firearm charge was overturned by a California appeals court in 2019, which said jurors were not given sufficient notice of the “momentary possession” of a firearm.

Federal prosecutors released their indictment just weeks after the acquittal in November 2017. A psychiatrist declared him incompetent to stand trial on the federal charges.

After resuming his medication, his capacity was restored and he pleaded guilty to the federal charges in March.

Los Angeles Times

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