San Francisco Not Liable For 2015 Kate Steinle Killing by Undocumented Immigrant, Court Rules

The city of San Francisco cannot be held liable for failing to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or deport the seven-time felon undocumented alien who shot and killed 32-year-old Kate Steinle in 2015, a court ruled Monday.

A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel affirmed a Northern California district judge's dismissal of negligence brought by the parents of Kathryn Steinle against the City and County of San Francisco after she was killed by an undocumented alien on July 1, 2015. Steinle's murder was placed under the national spotlight by President Donald Trump and other Republicans demanding increased Southern border security and a multibillion-dollar wall project in the years following.

The appellate court as well as Republican-led backlash focused on the city of San Francisco's so-called "sanctuary city" policies that limited cooperation with ICE and other federal immigration authorities.

The Steinle family's May 2016 lawsuit blamed her death on San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi for his agency's refusal to notify ICE prior to the incident. Steinle was shot dead near San Francisco's Pier 14 in July 2015, and the case was referenced by Trump during his 2016 Republican National Convention speech as he claimed the GOP nomination.

The three-judge panel's ruling Monday found Sheriff Mirkarimi acted within his power after his office issued a March 2015 policy memo to San Francisco deputies that limited their cooperation with federal ICE agents. The circuit judges had concluded Mirkarimi cannot be sued for negligence in the shooting.

kate steinle
The city of San Francisco cannot be held liable for failing to notify ICE or deport the seven-time felon who shot and killed 32-year-old Kate Steinle in 2015, a court ruled Monday. Kate Steinle | Facebook

In January 2017, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero dismissed the negligence claims against the city and found Sheriff Mirkarimi's office had no legal duty to help federal immigration agents deport and detain suspect Jose Ines Garcia-Zarate a.k.a. Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez. He had been deported to Mexico five times prior before landing himself in a San Francisco jail on a marijuana possession charge.

"The memo, on its face, reflects a basic policy decision entitled to discretionary immunity," U.S. Circuit Judge Mark Bennett, who is a Donald Trump appointee, wrote for the three-judge panel in Monday's ruling.

In November 2017, Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was found not guilty of murder in Steinle's death. The jury concluded he "did not commit a willful act in firing the gun—that it went off accidentally just as the defense contended," according to attorney Cliff Gardner.

"A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case! No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration," Trump tweeted in November 2017. "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. BUILD THE WALL!" he followed up in a December 2017 tweet.

Newsweek's requests for comments from several Republican state officials in California have not yet been answered as of publishing Tuesday afternoon.