During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump used the murder of Kate Steinle as political leverage against undocumented immigrants. In his 2016 Republican National Convention speech, Trump declared:
“These families have no special interests to represent them. There are no demonstrators to protest on their behalf. My opponent will never meet with them or share in their pain. Instead, my opponent wants Sanctuary Cities. But where was sanctuary for Kate Steinle? Where was Sanctuary for the children of Mary Ann, Sabine and Jamiel? Where was sanctuary for all the other Americans who have been so brutally murdered, and who have suffered so horribly?”
Steinle, a 32-year-old San Francisco resident, was shot at Pier 14 in 2015 by Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an undocumented immigrant who claimed that it was an accident. On Thursday, a jury only found Zarate guilty of felony possession of a firearm, not assault with a firearm.
According to the New York Times, Zarate “had been homeless at the time of the shooting and had multiple felony convictions and five prior deportations to Mexico. He had been set free from jail only months before the shooting, in defiance of requests by federal immigration authorities, who had asked that he be held longer so he could be deported again.”
Defense attorney Matt Gonzalez claimed that the outcome of the trial should not be seen as an affront to the Steinle family, saying “They should not interpret this verdict as diminishing their loss. The physical evidence dictated the outcome, I’m just the lawyer who guided it along.”
The Steinle family spoke with the San Francisco Chronicle, with her father, Jim saying:
“We have never had a second of anger — not a moment. Frustration, maybe, and sadness for sure, but no anger and no retaliation or vindictiveness or anything like that. We’re not that kind of people. Even if this guy gets 100 years in prison, it doesn’t solve anything; it doesn’t help anything. We would just like people to know … that’s the Steinles’ feelings.”
Following the verdict, Jim said, “we’re just shocked — saddened and shocked … that’s about it. There’s no other way you can coin it. Justice was rendered, but it was not served.” Following the death of Kate, the Steinle family had a decidedly measured take on the immigration issue, with Jim speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the need for a more efficient system for undocumented immigrants with felony records, saying “due to unjointed laws and basic incompetence of the government, the US has suffered a self-inflicted wound in the murder of our daughter by the hand of a person that should have never been on the streets in this country.”
However, they also spoke out against Trump’s usage of Kate’s death as leverage, with her mother, Liz Sullivan, saying “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. We were the perfect storm for that man.”
In 2015, Kate’s brother, Brad, told CNN “Donald Trump talks about Kate Steinle like he knows her. I’ve never heard a word from his campaign manager, I’ve never heard a word from him … I don’t want to be affiliated with someone who doesn’t have the common courtesy to reach out and ask about Kate, and our political views, and what we want.”
As of Thursday night, no sentencing date for Zarate has been set.