SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — The bullet that killed Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier two years ago ricocheted off the ground about 100 yards away before hitting her in the back, a police officer testified Monday.
Officer John Evans, who retired last year, helped supervise the investigation into Steinle’s death. He testified about the fatal shot’s trajectory Monday at the trial of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who is charged with murder.
Evans said investigators found a mark on the pier’s concrete floor four days after the July 1, 2105 shooting. Lawyers for Jose Ines Garcia Zarate argue that the ricochet shows the shooting was accidental.
Prosecutors charged Zarate with murder because they say he meant to point the gun at a crowd of people and pulled the trigger.
The case has ignited a firestorm of debate over the legality of Sanctuary Cities. San Francisco has such a policy in place that prevents local police from turning over illegal immigrants to federal immigration officials.
In her opening statement last week, prosecutor Diana Garcia showed the jury the gun that killed Steinle and said she was shot on purpose.
“He knew he had a gun, he meant to conceal it, he meant to shoot people on Pier 14 and he ended up killing Kate Steinle,” Garcia said.
Garcia argued that the ricochet could have occurred because Garcia Zarate was aiming at Steinle or other people in the area but fired before the barrel was all the way up and in position.
A jury of six men and six women will determine Zarate’s fate. Among the 12 jurors were three legal immigrants.
The 54-year-old acknowledges shooting Steinle in the back while she was walking with her father on the waterfront pier, but he claims the shooting was accidental.
Zarate said he was handling a handgun he found wrapped in a T-shirt under a bench on the pier when it accidentally fired. The handgun belonged to a Bureau of Land Management ranger who reported that it was stolen from his parked car in San Francisco a week before Steinle was shot.
“If he didn’t know that the object he touched (the t-shirt) had a gun in it, then he does not bear criminal responsibility,” his attorney Matt Gonzalez has contended.
The San Francisco district attorney’s office has charged Zarate with second-degree murder, which could result in a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in prison.