Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the undocumented immigrant at the center of a murder case that drew national attention the last two years, has been found not guilty of the murder of Kate Steinle.
Then-candidate Donald Trump used the case as justification for his attack on so-called sanctuary city laws and for his controversial wall across the southern border. Garcia became the exception that proved the rule about Mexico “not sending their best.”
“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Trump said the day he announced his run for President in 2015.
Steinle’s death became a cause célèbre for Republicans when she was tragically killed on July 1, 2015 – just weeks before Trump’s campaign launch. Conservative lawmakers and firebrands in the right wing media quickly made Steinle a martyr in their anti-immigrant crusade, even drawing up “Kate’s Law” that called for increasing the penalties for deported undocumented aliens who get caught returning to the United States illegally again and again. The GOP Controlled congress passed the bill along party lines earlier this year.
Garcia found a gun in a dumpster that had been stolen from the car of an agent of the Federal Bureau of Land Management. His defense lawyers argued that the gun went off accidentally while he was holding it, after which he threw the gun into San Francisco Bay. The bullet, however, ricocheted off a wall and hit nearby Kate Steinle, killing her almost instantly.
Because Garcia is an undocumented immigrant who had been previously deported multiple times, he became a symbol in the Republicans long-running feud with with mostly Democratic lawmakers in so-called sanctuary cities like San Francisco. Conservatives became outraged over this case, arguing that, whatever Garcia’s intent or the circumstances of the firing of the weapon, he never should have been in the country in the first place.
Unfortunately, the law doesn’t work that way, and the jury acquitted Garcia of the murder charge. He still awaits trial on other charges.