Man acquitted in San Francisco pier shooting is sentenced on gun charges

The man, who was acquitted of murder after the fatal shooting of a woman on a San Francisco pier in 2015, was sentenced Monday to federal firearms charges.

José Inez García Zárate, a Mexican national, was charged in 2017 with being a felon and undocumented immigrant who was 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 murder of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle.

The case and acquittal garnered national attention after President Trump tried to use them to stoke passion about illegal immigration during his first campaign and term.

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

The Associated Press reported that US District Judge Vince Chhabria had sentenced García Zárate to prison but would not release him. Instead, he is sent to Texas, where he faces federal immigration fees and deportation.

“If you come back to this country and stand before me again, 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 transported to San Francisco to face a two-decade marijuana indictment that prosecutors eventually dropped, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. He was released despite a federal immigration ban.

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

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

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

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

The prosecution was headed by the then-San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. George Gascon.

Ultimately, the jury acquitted García Zárate of murder and manslaughter, but after six days of deliberation found him guilty of gun possession.

The firearms charge was overturned in 2019 by a California appeals court that said jurors were not adequately informed of the “temporary possession” of a firearm.

Only a few weeks after the acquittal in November 2017, the federal prosecutor filed their charges. A psychiatrist found him unfit to stand trial on the federal charges.

After he resumed his medication, his competency was restored and he pleaded guilty to the federal charges in March. Man acquitted in San Francisco pier shooting is sentenced on gun charges

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