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Editorial: Steinle verdict -- Let's channel our frustration

Mexican man's acquittal on shooting charges leaves Pleasanton stunned

"Justice was rendered, but it was not served." -- Jim Steinle, Kate Steinle's father, told the San Francisco Chronicle in the wake of the verdict.

The acquittal last week of the person charged with killing Kate Steinle left many in Kate's hometown of Pleasanton feeling betrayed by the justice system and outraged.

Attorneys for Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, a 45-year-old Mexican national and convicted felon in the U.S. illegally, convinced the jury that Garcia Zarate picked up a gun he found and it accidentally fired, with the bullet ricocheting before killing 32-year-old Steinle on Pier 14 in San Francisco in July 2015.

Garcia Zarate was able to enter the U.S. illegally six times, and was set to be deported when Steinle was killed.

However, San Francisco's "Sanctuary City" policy allowed Garcia Zarate to remain here -- homeless and not contributing to society in a positive manner -- when he was released from San Francisco jail custody that April after a drug charge was dismissed, without federal immigration officials being told. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee continues to defend the policy.

The Nov. 30 verdict, though, was shocking and set off a firestorm of comments of disbelief, shock and outrage through the media outlets covering the story, including the Pleasanton Weekly.

Most understand the technicalities that led to Garcia Zarate not being found guilty of first-degree murder or even second-degree murder, specifically prosecutors' failure to prove intent to fire the gun at Steinle or toward the pier crowd. However, it is difficult to understand how Garcia Zarate, who was holding the gun that shot the bullet that killed Kate, was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon defended the work of his prosecutors on the Steinle case, including the decision by prosecutors in closing arguments to ask jurors to consider a first-degree murder verdict rather than the second-degree or manslaughter charges.

"If there was any failure in the preparation or presentation of this case, the responsibility is mine and mine alone," Gascon told reporters this week. We'll find out next election whether Gascon is held accountable for those prosecutorial miscalculations.

Adding insult to injury, the Public Defender's Office announced Monday it will appeal the only charge Garcia Zarate was found guilty of -- being a felon in possession of a firearm.

It is understandable that lax border control and blatant disregard for federal immigration policies make us angry. If Garcia Zarate hadn't been on that pier, would Kate have died in her father's arms that day? Doubtful.

It is also understandable that the verdict provokes anger because the acquittal feels like more of a political power play than justice. If Garcia Zarate was a legal immigrant or U.S. citizen, would this case have become such a hot-button issue? Doubtful.

But Kate's death has been exploited for political means since that horrible day in 2015.

U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin), who represents the 15th Congressional District that includes Pleasanton, knew Kate growing up and remains in contact with her family.

"I respect our justice system, but I disagree with the verdict," Swalwell, a former Alameda County prosecutor, told the Weekly. "I pray for Kate's family and I hope that when her name is spoken it is to remember what she contributed to our community, and not a way of advancing anyone's political agenda."

In the wake of the shooting, "Kate's Law" was drafted to toughen punishment for criminal offenders who re-enter the U.S. illegally.

Swalwell was one of two-dozen Democrats who voted in favor of the Republican-sponsored bill June 29, and it has passed the House of Representatives. Yet it languishes in the Senate.

At the time, Swalwell said, "(Kate's) heinous murder was a tragedy and we still grieve today, wishing she was still with us. Sadly, we can't bring Kate back, but lawmakers can work to try and better protect our communities from criminals hurting people. This bill is not perfect ... but it does improve our ability to punish individuals who repeatedly break the law and to deter those who may do so."

We stand with Congressman Swalwell on needing to enhance punishment of criminal offenders who illegally enter the U.S. over and over with seemingly no consequences.

We also look forward to following the Steinle family's pending lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. It was an agency-issued firearm that fired the bullet that killed Steinle, after it was stolen when a ranger lackadaisically stored his backup duty weapon in a backpack stuffed under the front seat of his SUV parked on The Embarcadero.

Let's channel our frustration and anger about the Steinle case by encouraging officials to finally pass "Kate's Law" as well as other commonsense legislation, to make the Bay Area safer for everyone.

* Editor's note: Information from the Bay City News Service's trial coverage was used in this report.

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Comments

8 people like this
Posted by Frank
a resident of Danville
on Dec 8, 2017 at 6:47 am

Disgusting one sided hate ridden opinion here....Trump is alive and well in the East Bay


22 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of San Ramon
on Dec 8, 2017 at 7:37 am

You bet he is Frank. I’d like you to look Steinles parents in the eye and dispute their daughters death. Our government failed again and it’s time tough choices are made and enforced


4 people like this
Posted by mrszalewski2
a resident of Danville
on Dec 8, 2017 at 8:51 am

mrszalewski2 is a registered user.

I disagree with the statement in the above article “If Garcia Zarate hadn’t been on that pier would Kate have died in her Father’s arms that day: Doubtful. It is my opinion that our broken system is as responsible for killing Kate as is Garcia Zarate.


9 people like this
Posted by C. R. Mudgeon
a resident of Danville
on Dec 8, 2017 at 9:59 am

C. R. Mudgeon is a registered user.

You're right, Frank. I DO hate it when innocent people are shot....

Good editorial, BTW.


Like this comment
Posted by hamilton
a resident of Vista Grande Elementary School
on Dec 8, 2017 at 10:10 am

hamilton is a registered user.

Did any of you follow the actual case?? The defense had a good argument, and proof of how it occurred. We may not like the verdict, but justice was served. Hating all immigrants is not helping.
What about the Federal Agent who left his loaded gun out in his car, visible to the public? In my opinion, he certainly should have some responsibility in this!


18 people like this
Posted by FedUpResident
a resident of San Ramon
on Dec 8, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Some of the statements above, including the "editorial", have expressed muddled thinking that might confuse a non-critical thinker; this is not about Swalwell, and not about "hating all immigrants".

This case was handled be an incompetent district attorney in an ultra-liberal sanctuary city, where as part of the jury selection process jurors were asked "can you come to a decision that is contrary to President Trump's statements about this case". Several TV news reports said that several jurors were "immigrants" (code for illegal immigrant)& the judge sealed the record as to who was on the jury. Swalwell voted with the two-dozen Democrats in favor of the Republican-sponsored bill "Kate's Law", which toughens punishment for criminal illegal alien offenders. Swalwell had no choice but vote in favor of "Kate's Law", otherwise his political career would have been over since Kate is from his district.


15 people like this
Posted by Long Term Resident
a resident of Danville
on Dec 11, 2017 at 6:53 am

Having been in this valley since the 1950's, we have always had lots of migrant farm workers, ranchers, etc. In general, we are very tolerant people to those who blend into society and follow our laws. If I snuck into Mexico or any other country multiple times illegally and committed crimes, including killing someone, do you think I would receive the same treatment as Garcia Zarate?? No way. All the other countries have a rule of law and follow it.

As for those who will say I live in my little cocoon in Danville, I will not apologize. I went to school for 18 years and worked since I was 8 years old (paper route). In other words, I worked hard to live the life I live where I want to live it. Why should I feel guilty or apologize for that?

SanFrancisco used to be one of the top cities in the world. It is now falling quickly and will continue to do so until some sanity is exercised.


12 people like this
Posted by Tom T
a resident of Danville
on Dec 11, 2017 at 10:41 am

This is not about hating immigrants. This is about law and order. You cant just decide I am ok to follow this law and not others. Legal immigration is good for our country if we manage it properly. To show you how bad things have gone only look to UCB where a poster honoring the victim in this case was destroyed by the ever tolerant left.

We should allow people in the country based on how they can contribute. They need not be rich but willing to chip in. When you bypass process you have no idea what you are letting in. How many of these fine people on the left would allow anyone in their own home? The Pope speaks of no wall yet he himself has one.

As usual it is do as I say not as I do.

Net net the D party has a super majority choke hold on this state.
More innocent lives will be lost.


6 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Danville
on Dec 13, 2017 at 8:49 am

Rick is a registered user.

Absent a critical evaluation of

The 'Steinle Verdict' flaunts the SF/Bay Area "progressive" political & social justice biases. SF DA Gascon sought and obtained a Cui Bono - a favorable political outcome rather than a straightforward legal decision based on facts thereby expiating an illegal felon immigrant. This sort of justice fob-off feeds perfectly perfectly into the fugue of the SF/Bay Area progressive mind.


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