Federal prosecutors have issued an arrest warrant for an undocumented Mexican immigrant who’s already awaiting sentencing in California over the highly publicized death of Kate Steinle, seemingly in a move to ensure the man’s deportation.
A jury acquitted Jose Ines Garcia Zarate of murder and manslaughter charges on Thursday after his defense attorneys argued that he didn’t purposely fire the bullet that killed Steinle, 32, while she was walking with her father on a San Francisco pier in July 2015.
The jury did, however, convict Zarate of being a felon in possession of a firearm — and Justice Department prosecutors believe that proves Zarate violated a probation order he was slammed with after entering the country illegally in 2011. Prosecutors issued a warrant for Zarate’s arrest at the U.S. District Court in Del Rio, Texas on Friday.
A spokesman for the district court declined to comment on what motivated the warrant.
“We do have a case, I can tell you that much,” he told the Daily News.
Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Thomas Homan shed a bit of light on the matter during an interview with Fox News.
Jim Steinle, center, and Liz Sullivan, right, the parents of Kate Steinle, walk to a court room for closing arguments on Thursday.
“Let him spend some time in prison, when he’s done there, we will deport him,” Homan said of Zarate. “No doubt about that.”
Zarate could face up to three years in jail for the gun charge, according to California state law. A date for his sentencing has yet to be set.
Since San Francisco is a so-called sanctuary city, local authorities do not comply with federal requests for immigration retainers. Friday’s arrest warrant appears to ensure that federal officials can arrest and deport Zarate once he has served time for the gun charge.
Steinle’s death set off a national immigration debate after then-presidential candidate Donald Trump politicized the tragedy as a reason to build a border wall with Mexico.
After Thursday’s verdict, Trump redoubled focus on Steinle, calling the jury’s decision to clear Zarate of murder charges “a complete travesty of justice.”
“The Kate Steinle killer came back and back over the weakly protected Obama border, always committing crimes and being violent,” Trump tweeted, adding, “BUILD THE WALL!”
Steinle died after walking on a pier in San Francisco with her father.
Before Steinle’s death, Zarate had been deported from the U.S. five times.
Attorneys for Zarate, who was homeless, said he found the gun that he accidentally shot Steinle with.