The Trump administration moved Friday to claim custody of the illegal immigrant who killed Kate Steinle, saying he violated the terms of his probation and should be sent back to federal prison.
The move is aimed at taking Jose Inez Garcia Zarate away from California officials, after a jury in that state acquitted him Thursday of murder and manslaughter charges stemming from the Steinle killing.
A Justice Department official said there’s an existing federal detainer requiring Garcia Zarate to be remanded to U.S. Marshals and sent to a federal court in Texas to answer for the probation violation.
Garcia Zarate was convicted of a weapons charge but acquitted of murder, manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon charges from the 2015 killing of Steinle, a 32-year-old who was shot while walking the San Francisco waterfront with her father.
Garcia Zarate admits to shooting her, but says it was a freak accident, saying he found the gun and was holding it when it went off. The jury appeared to accept that explanation.
Garcia Zarate faces up to three years in prison on the California weapons charge.
But law enforcement advocates from President Trump on down blasted the jury’s decision, saying Garcia Zarate, a seven-time felon who’d been deported five times already and who the feds had been trying to deport a sixth time, shouldn’t have even been in the country at the time of the slaying.
Friday’s arrest warrant appeared to be a way of taking control of Garcia Zarate’s fate back from San Francisco and California, both of which now have sanctuary policies.
It was San Francisco’s sanctuary policy that allowed Garcia Zarate to be free on July 1, 2015 — the date Steinle was killed.
Garcia Zarate had been released from a federal prison earlier that year and was due to be deported but San Francisco asked for custody because of an outstanding warrant in a drug case. Upon taking custody, though, local prosecutors decided not to pursue the old case.
Instead of turning Garcia Zarate back to federal deportation authorities, who had requested him, San Francisco released him into the community. Months later his path would collide violently with Steinle, leaving her dead and reigniting a national debate over immigration.
“The Kate Steinle killer came back and back over the weakly protected Obama border, always committing crimes and being violent, and yet this info was not used in court. His exoneration is a complete travesty of justice,” President Trump tweeted Friday morning.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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