Zarate, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, was charged with murder in the shooting death of Kate Steinle, 32, in 2015 as she and her father walked along the San Francisco bayfront. Zarate was acquitted Thursday of first- and second-degree murder, manslaughter and assault charges.
He was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The case received national attention in the debate over “sanctuary cities,” in which municipal authorities like government and police officials have policies against cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement retainer orders — mainly on civil or public safety grounds.
San Francisco, along with hundreds of other major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and New York City, is a “sanctuary city.’
During his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly cited Steinle’s death as an example of harm that comes to Americans through governments’ non-compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement orders. Defense attorneys argued at trial that Zarate had found the gun and that it fired by accident, hitting and killing Steinle.
After Zarate’s acquittal, a Department of Justice spokeswoman said the agency is considering bringing federal charges against Zarate, who had been deported to Mexico five times prior to Steinle’s death.
“We’re looking at every option and we will prosecute this to the fullest extent available under the law because these cases are tragic and entirely preventable,” Sarah Isgur Flores, the department’s Director of Public Affairs, told Fox News.
Possible charges could include felony re-entry and violating supervised release, Flores said. Prosecutors said Zarate was deported and illegally re-entered the United States multiple times before Steinle’s death.
ICE has already announced it would immediately seek to deport him following the acquittal.
Deputy Director Tom Homan said in a statement that compliance by San Francisco authorities would have prevented Steinle’s death.
“San Francisco’s policy of refusing to honor ICE detainers is a blatant threat to public safety and undermines the rule of law,” he said. “This tragedy could have been prevented if San Francisco had simply turned the alien over to ICE, as we requested, instead of releasing him back onto the streets.
“It is unconscionable that politicians across this country continue to endanger the lives of Americans with sanctuary policies while ignoring the harm inflicted on their constituents. Following the conclusion of this case, ICE will work to take custody of Mr. Garcia Zarate and ultimately remove him from the country.”
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been critical of sanctuary policies and the Trump administration unsuccessfully attempted to cut federal funding to cities that fall out of compliance.
In a Twitter message, Trump called the verdict “disgraceful.”
“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,” Trump tweeted Friday. “His exoneration is a complete travesty of justice. BUILD THE WALL!
“The jury was not told the killer of Kate was a 7 time felon. The Schumer/Pelosi Democrats are so weak on crime that they will pay a big price in the 2018 and 2020 Elections.”
Trump was set to meet with Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosiearlier this week, but the minority congressional leaders called it off after one of the president’s tweets criticized Democratic efforts.