SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Surveillance video footage shown in court Wednesday shows the man charged in the fatal shooting of Kate Steinle at San Francisco’s Pier 14 throw something in the water and then leave the scene immediately after she is struck, according to prosecutors.
Jurors in the trial of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, 45, who faces charges including second-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon in the July 1, 2015 shooting, were shown surveillance footage of the shooting taken from a fire station located about a quarter of a mile away.
The grainy, black-and-white footage shows a small figure dressed in black, identified by police as Garcia Zarate, sitting down on a chair on the Pier shortly after 6 p.m., according to police Officer Craig Dong, who collected and analyzed the video.
A short time later, a group of people can be seen passing by, including one figure in white identified by Dong as Steinle.
Steinle, a 32-year-old Pleasanton native who lived in San Francisco’s South Beach neighborhood, was walking on the pier with her father and another family member following a meal at the Ferry Building at the time of the shooting, according to previous testimony.
In the video, Garcia Zarate remained seated until the figure in white can be seen falling down, at which point there is a splash in the water in front of him as he gets up and leaves the area, Dong said.
“I see Kate Steinle falling down and the man throws something in the water and he walks away almost immediately,” Dong said, as prosecutor Diana Garcia played the video for jurors.
Additional surveillance video footage shows Garcia Zarate as he walks south down Embarcadero away from the scene.
He does not appear to run, in any of the footage, and stops at one point to look inside a garbage can before police pull up in the area of Embarcadero and Townsend street to detain him. Garcia Zarate can be seen laying down on the ground after police arrive before the video ends.
Defense attorneys are not disputing that Garcia Zarate was holding the gun when Steinle was shot, but have argued the shooting was an accident that occurred after he found the gun, wrapped in a T-shirt or piece of cloth, underneath his seat on the pier. The bullet that struck Steinle ricocheted off the pier in front of Garcia Zarate before it struck her.
Matt Gonzalez, chief attorney for the public defender’s office, said in opening statements that Garcia Zarate threw the gun in the water when it went off to make it stop and walked away without knowing that anyone had been hit.
Outside court Wednesday Gonzalez said the footage showed the “tremendous distance” between Garcia Zarate and Steinle at the time of the shooting.
In addition, he noted that the fire station camera footage shows a group of people huddled at the same seat where Garcia Zarate later sat, picking objects up and putting them down. He noted that police had never examined this portion of the footage or checked for additional surveillance
camera images of the people in that group.
Police had the footage but were so convinced of Garcia Zarate’s guilt that they didn’t investigate “the one piece of evidence that corroborates his claim that somebody else could have put it there,” Gonzalez said.
Prosecutor Diana Garcia Wednesday also presented testimony from the police officer who arrested Garcia Zarate and from the diver who retrieved the gun from the water, as well as forensics evidence.
Police did not locate a cloth or t-shirt such as Gonzalez suggested might have been wrapped around the gun in the area of the shooting, and the diver, Officer Scott Hurley, said he did not find one in the water.
However he noted on cross-examination that he was not instructed to search for any cloth in the water.
Garcia Zarate’s trial has drawn national attention because of its ties to controversy over Sanctuary City policies used by San Francisco and other cities that limit the cooperation of local law enforcement with federal immigration authorities.
San Francisco officials had released Garcia Zarate, a Mexican citizen with a history of deportations, from jail months before the shooting after a minor drug charge was dismissed without notifying federal immigration authorities, as is the city’s practice for most cases.
Testimony is expected to continue Thursday morning. Garcia Zarate remains in custody without bail during the trial.
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