This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, November 3, 2017:
Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, also known as Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez or simply Francisco Sanchez, is more likely known to millions as the illegal Mexican immigrant who shot and killed Kate Steinle on Pier 4 in San Francisco on July 1, 2015. Those millions will remember that Zarate had been deported five times and had returned a sixth time, that he has a rap sheet including seven felonies, and that San Francisco’s “sanctuary city” status allowed him to go free even when the sheriff knew that ICE had put a “hold” on him.
They will remember that Trump made this case a cause célèbre during his run for the presidency last year.
They will shortly learn where Zarate is going to spend the next 15 years of his life: dodging border patrol agents once again, or inside a cell in a U.S. maximum security prison. He’s charged with second degree murder which carries a sentence of 15 years to life.
The trial, which began last week, is entering its final stages. Much testimony has been heard by the jury, and many of Zarate’s initial claims have been thrown out. Zarate initially claimed that he found the handgun – a 40-caliber Sig Sauer P239 – wrapped up in a T-shirt under a bench on the pier. He claimed that he fired it three times at “a black fish” in the bay. Under further interrogation he said instead that he stepped on the T-shirt accidentally and that the gun wrapped inside went off by itself. Zarate said he threw it into the bay to keep it from continuing to fire. He then finally admitted, during four-and-a-half hours of interrogation, that he indeed did fire the weapon that killed Kate but that it was an accident.
When firearms expert Gerald Andrew Smith testified, he pointed out that, when he received the weapon, it had just one round missing which was consistent with the BLM ranger’s claim that he always keep his Sig fully loaded. Smith testified further that the only way the firearm could have fired a bullet is if the trigger had been deliberately pressed. In addition it would have taken between five and 10 pounds of pressure on the trigger to fire the weapon. Said Smith: “I found no mechanical issues with the firearm and my opinion is that this gun will fire only when the trigger is pulled.” He added that internal safety mechanisms would have prevented it from firing it if were accidentally dropped.
The bullet that killed Kate was found to be deformed, consistent with a ricochet off the surface of the pier. Additional investigation turned up a “strike mark” on a line from where Zarate was located and where Kate and her father were walking.
One of the investigators, retired police officer John Evans, added his opinion that inexperienced shooters are often shaky and fire in haste, causing the barrel of the gun to point downward, calling it “jerking the trigger.”
Zarate’s public defender, Matt Gonzalez, has decided to risk it all on a gambit: he’s asking the judge to allow each member of the jury to handle the firearm that Zarate used in order to show just how “sensitive” the trigger is and how, by extension, how likely the firearm would be to going off by itself. Said Gonzalez: “I have handled this very firearm, and the trigger pull is extremely light. Anybody who believes that this gun cannot fire accidentally, that would settle it, I have no doubt.”
This directly contradicts the testimony provided by Smith.
Gonzalez’s gambit could backfire. Once jurists, especially those who may be unfamiliar with firearms, see just how carefully designed and built is the Sig, they are likely to understand why it is such a popular sidearm for law enforcement: it only fires when its operator intends it to fire.
Is the ricochet enough to support Zarate’s claim that the shooting was an accident, or is the trigger pull necessary to fire the weapon enough to convict?
Where Zarate spends the next 15 years of his life depends on how the jury rules. He will know shortly.