Kate Steinle's memorial in San Francisco

Photo via Gianluca Cogoli/Wikimedia Commons

Trump calls verdict in Kate Steinle case ‘disgraceful,’ takes aim at undocumented immigrants

The woman's parents disagree with Trump's politicization of her death.


Samantha Grasso


Posted on Dec 1, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 9:21 am CDT

On Thursday, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges, and found not guilty of assault with a firearm, in the July 2015 death of Kate Steinle.

Steinle was shot while walking with her father on San Francisco’s Pier 14, and died in the hospital two hours later. Garcia Zarate acknowledged he had fired his weapon, but said it was an accident. Evidence presented during the five-week trial showed the bullet had ricocheted before striking Steinle.

According to the New York Times, Garcia Zarate, a 45-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrant, was, however, found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm and could be sentenced anywhere from 16 months to three years in prison. Garcia Zarate has been deported five times and spent more than two years in county jail waiting for his trial.

Prior to his election, President Donald Trump‘s campaign used the killing of then-32-year-old Steinle as a call for immigration reform. Steinle’s death served as a Trump campaign anecdote of what happens to American citizens when undocumented immigrants aren’t deported and kept out of the United States.

On Thursday evening and into Friday morning, Trump expressed his dissatisfaction with the verdict in the Steinle case, calling it “disgraceful” on Twitter, and writing, “No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration.”

Trump had previously tweeted about Steinle’s death seven times, on two occasions to criticize President Barack Obama and then-presidential candidate Marco Rubio for their seeming inaction.

“Countless innocent American lives have been stolen because our politicians have failed in their duty to secure our borders and enforce our laws,” Trump once said during a speech on immigration in August 2016. He then listed the names of people “failed” by these laws.

Speaking of Steinle’s death, Trump said she was “gunned down in the sanctuary city of San Francisco, by an illegal immigrant, deported five previous times,” and said, of Garcia Zarate, “they knew he was no good.”

In June, the House approved “Kate’s Law,” a bill for stricter penalties for undocumented immigrants caught re-entering the country after deportation, but the bill has stalled in the Senate.

Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle in 2015, Steinle’s mother Liz Sullivan and father James Steinle expressed disagreement with how their daughter’s story was being politicized at the time—they were never against sanctuary cities, a status that San Francisco holds, and Sullivan went on national TV to praise undocumented Hispanic families in the U.S.

“For Donald Trump, we were just what he needed—beautiful girl, San Francisco, illegal immigrant, arrested a million times, a violent crime and yadda, yadda, yadda,” Sullivan said at the time. “We were the perfect storm for that man.”

On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called Steinle’s death “preventable and heartbreaking,” and urged other sanctuary cities to rescind their position of protecting undocumented immigrants from deportation.

“The Department of Justice will continue to ensure that all jurisdictions place the safety and security of their communities above the convenience of criminal aliens,” Session said. “I urge the leaders of the nation’s communities to reflect on the outcome of this case and consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement officers.”

H/T the New York Times

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*First Published: Dec 1, 2017, 10:02 am CST