An illegal immigrant who was acquitted of murder in the 2015 shooting death of San Francisco woman Kate Steinle was sentenced on Monday to time already served over a federal weapons charge related to the high-profile case.
Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate is facing deportation to his native Mexico after a federal judge in California sentenced him to the seven years he has already spent in jail — bringing an end to the case that sparked a firestorm over immigration and sanctuary cities.
“If you return to this country again and you are back in front of me, I will not spare you. Let this be your last warning: Do not return to this country,” US District Judge Vince Chhabria said during his sentencing hearing.
Steinle, 32, was shot dead while she was walking along San Francisco’s crowded Pier 14 with her dad and a friend on July 4, 2015.
Garcia-Zarate, who was in the US illegally and had already been deported five times, admitted to accidentally firing the gun.
He said he’d found it under a bench, but didn’t know it was a firearm because it was wrapped up in a T-shirt. The gun fired when Garcia-Zarate picked it up and officials said the bullet ricocheted off the ground before striking the victim.
The gun had been stolen from a US Bureau of Land Management ranger’s car a week earlier.
A jury eventually acquitted Garcia-Zarate of homicide charges in 2017, but he still faced a federal firearms charge.
He pleaded guilty in March to being a felon in possession of a firearm and a person illegally in the country in possession of a firearm after a five-year delay over concerns about his mental health.
His attorney, Mike Hinckley, told the court on Monday that Garcia-Zarate “feels horrible about what happened, and that he’s very sorry and apologizes.”
Steinle’s death had ignited a national debate over immigration and resulted in then-presidential candidate Donald Trump calling for a crackdown on illegal migrants and sanctuary cities, including San Francisco, that refused to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
With Post wires