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Accused Killer Of Kate Steinle Not Guilty Of Murder

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Disgraceful, a complete travesty of justice - that's what President Trump has tweeted about yesterday's verdict in the trial of an undocumented Mexican immigrant who fatally shot a San Francisco woman. During the presidential campaign last year, Trump said that the case proved that the U.S. needs a border wall and that sanctuary cities are dangerous. But the man was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges on Thursday.

From member station KQED, Alex Emslie reports.

ALEX EMSLIE, BYLINE: Thirty-two-year-old Kathryn Steinle was walking with her father on July 1, 2015, on a touristy pedestrian pier near San Francisco's Ferry Building. There was a loud bang, and she fell to the ground, fatally shot in the back. Police arrested the man who shot her within an hour, a homeless man from Mexico named Jose Ines Garcia Zarate. He had no record of violent crime but had served a series of federal prison sentences for illegal re-entry into the U.S. He'd been recently released in San Francisco in spite of a request from federal immigration authorities to hand him over for deportation. San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi's office represented Garcia Zarate.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEFF ADACHI: There was a tremendous amount of misinformation that was spread about this case from Day 1. You had then-candidate Trump espousing that, you know, this was an intentional shooting - a, quote, "illegal immigrant" took a gun and fired it directly at Kate Steinle.

EMSLIE: The defense said Garcia Zarate found a discarded, stolen gun moments before it accidentally went off. The defense argued that the bullet ricocheted off the pavement close to Garcia Zarate and almost 80 feet from Steinle. And the jury apparently agreed. The gun was stolen from a federal lands ranger's car four days before the shooting. The ranger wasn't disciplined and was actually promoted later that year. District attorney's spokesman Alex Bastian says the prosecution respects the jury's decision.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALEX BASTIAN: The verdict that came in today was not the one we were hoping for. But I think it's unequivocal. Both sides gave it their all.

EMSLIE: The jury convicted Garcia Zarate for being a felon in possession of a handgun. He could be sentenced to three or more years for that. But he's already spent two and a half years in county jail, so he could also soon be released. A sentencing hearing is yet to be scheduled. Whenever Garcia Zarate's sentence is finished, it's unlikely he'll be released again in San Francisco. Immigration officials say they're working to take custody and deport him. Steinle's father told the San Francisco Chronicle that justice had been rendered but not served.

For NPR News I'm Alex Emslie in San Francisco.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE AMERICAN DOLLAR'S "PATH OF TOTALITY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.