Jim Steinle lived through every dad’s nightmare: his only daughter, Kate, died in his arms on Pier 32 in San Francisco after being shot in the back. While in the middle of a horrific, surreal experience, Steinle’s family was thrust into the national spotlight because the man who shot her was an illegal immigrant who shouldn’t have been on the streets of San Francisco in the first place.
Steinle then had to recount those moments on the stand during the murder trial of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, the felon who killed her.
It’s hard to fathom the death of my daughter on a pier, and when you have a broken heart and have grief in your life, if you’ve never had it, it’s awful.
It’s been tough for me, because I was there. You sit on the stand and you relive that moment, and it’s not a good day.
When Garcia Zarate was acquitted of all but one of the charges against him relating to Kate Steinle’s murder, Jim said:
“[We are] shocked – saddened and shocked. There’s no other way you can coin it. Justice was rendered, but it was not served.”
Jim, along with Kate’s mother, Liz Sullivan, and her brother, Brad, sat down with the San Francisco Chronicle after the verdict to give what they hope will be their last interview. The family hopes to be able to move on in privacy now that Garcia Zarate’s trial is over.
Though the family supports sanctuary cities in theory, they believe the San Francisco policy goes far beyond what’s needed to protect law-abiding [emphasis added] immigrants who are afraid of coming forward as crime victims or afraid of seeking necessary medical attention because of their immigration status.
“It was never meant to be a safe harbor for violent criminals. That’s the bottom line.”
They’re frustrated by the “sanctimony and stubbornness” of San Francisco lawmakers, who have barely changed their sanctuary city policy after Kate’s death, despite intense scrutiny and lobbying. As it stands, a man with Garcia Zarate’s record would still be released from a San Francisco jail instead of handed over to federal authorities for deportation.
“The sequence of events [Garcia Zarate’s repeated deportations, sanctuary city policies, unsecured gun stolen from BLM vehicle] that led up to this — and the fact that nothing has changed — is the most disheartening thing. It’s like Siegfried and Roy: You stick your head in a tiger’s mouth and you’re probably going to get bit at some point.”
Brad holds the officials responsible for implementing and continuing these policies at least as responsible as Garcia Zarate for his sister’s death.
“The outcome of this trial doesn’t really change the fact that the system both on a city and federal level miserably failed in protecting Kate. The lack of accountability and change is what I find is the most disheartening and outrageous part of this entire thing. The failure on all levels is what led to her death. I think they share as much blame, if not more, than Sanchez.”
Sullivan doesn’t buy the defense story (well, one of them) that it was a ricochet. She listened to all of the forensic evidence hoping to be able to conclude that her daughter’s death was simply a horrible accident, but came to a different conclusion:
“The forensic specialist really explained it quite well. I think for whatever reason, I think he did shoot towards them, which was really upsetting towards me. I was hoping it was just a ricochet and wasn’t aimed, but unfortunately I think that’s what it was. “
Sullivan and Brad Steinle, Kate’s brother, thought Public Defender Matt Gonzales’ contention that the gun accidentally discharged was “ridiculous, just ridiculous.” Brad Steinle owns a handgun and said:
“I know that guns don’t just go off. But you have a jury full of people, the vast majority of which probably haven’t shot a gun before and don’t know the intricacies of how a gun works.”
Still, the family maintains they have “no room” for anger or vengeance.
“We have no room in our hearts and ourselves for any of that, so we still have none of that.”
Jim Steinle is saddened that the family’s loss has been nearly completely obscured by politics on both sides.
“We somehow or another, amazingly, got caught up in immigration and Trump, and we have our views on immigration and we have our views on Trump, but this is the death of my daughter. The manipulation of using her death as impetus for immigration reviews and sanctuary cities and all that we’re getting into now, but….nothing’s happened. Nothing’s changed, except Kate’s not here.”
As the Steinles face another holiday season without their lovely Kate, that’s the bottom line.
Kate’s not here.