President Donald Trump and a top U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official have deplored Thursday's not guilty verdict returned for the undocumented immigrant charged with Kate Steinle's fatal shooting and called for stricter immigration policies.
A six-man, six-woman jury found Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, a 45-year-old homeless Mexican citizen, not guilty of murder and assault with a deadly weapon after a four-week trial and six days of deliberation. He was convicted of one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
As a candidate, Trump had cited the death of "beautiful Kate" as justification for a crackdown on immigration.
Trump tweeted Thursday, "A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case! No wonder the people of our Country (sic) are so angry with Illegal Immigration (sic)."
The president followed that tweet up with two others Friday morning, seizing the occasion to promote the wall he has long proposed between Mexico and the U.S.
"The Kate Steinle killer came back and back over the weakly protected Obama border, always committing crimes and being violent, and yet this info was not used in court. His exoneration is a complete travesty of justice. BUILD THE WALL!"
Trump also predicted that the verdict would affect the upcoming elections, tweeting, "The jury was not told the killer of Kate was a 7 time felon," adding that Democrats are "so weak on Crime (sic) they will pay a big price in the 2018 and 2020 elections."
San Francisco's public defender released a statement following the verdict.
"The untimely death of Kate Steinle was a horrible tragedy," San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said.
"That tragedy was compounded when it was used as political fodder for then-candidate Donald Trump's anti-immigration agenda. The facts of this case were largely uncontroversial: a gun was found on the pier and it accidentally discharged, ricocheting from a distance of 80 feet."
The deputy director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also weighed in on the case.
"San Francisco's policy of refusing to honor ICE detainers is a blatant threat to public safety and undermines the rule of law," said Thomas D. Homan of ICE.
"This tragedy could have been prevented if San Francisco had simply turned the alien over to ICE, as we requested, instead of releasing him back onto the streets," Homan said in a statement.
Homan was referring to the fact that Garcia Zarate, who has prior criminal convictions for drug charges and returning to the country after deportation, had been released from city jail several months earlier without notification to federal immigration authorities.
When this fact became known, the case became part of a highly politicized national debate over Sanctuary City policies.
Such policies, which are used by hundreds of cities and counties nationwide, deliberately restrict communication and cooperation between local law enforcement and immigration authorities in an effort to encourage immigrants to report crimes and maintain communication with local police.
"It is unconscionable that politicians across this country continue to endanger the lives of Americans with sanctuary policies while ignoring the harm inflicted on their constituents," Homan said.
"Following the conclusion of this case, ICE will work to take custody of Mr. Garcia Zarate and ultimately remove him from this country," Homan said.
Garcia Zarate is presently in custody at the San Francisco County Jail, according to the San Francisco Sheriff's Department, and has been kept in custody since his arrest shortly after the shooting.
Garcia Zarate will be sentenced to either 16 months in prison, two years or three years on the gun possession charge, depending on the ruling of Judge James Feng. A sentencing hearing has been set for Dec. 14.
There is a federal criminal warrant signed by a U.S. District Judge in 2015 for Garcia Zarate, the sheriff's department said.
Once Garcia Zarate is eligible to be released, the sheriff's department will notify the U.S. Marshal pursuant to the federal criminal warrant, the department said in a statement.
Steinle, a 32-year-old Pleasanton native and San Francisco resident, was walking on Pier 14 with her father and a family friend around 6:30 p.m. when she was struck in the back by a single bullet that had ricocheted off the pier before it hit her.
Prosecutor Diana Garcia had argued the shooting was a deliberate act, while defense attorneys Matt Gonzalez and Francisco Ugarte described it as an accident, occurring after Garcia Zarate picked up a gun he found on the pier.
Inside the courtroom, Garcia Zarate's status as an undocumented immigrant played little role in the trial, which focused on whether he intended to pull the trigger and whether an accidental shooting was in fact possible.