San Francisco pier shooter seeks dismissal of gun charge

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Mexican man who touched off a fierce immigration debate over his role in the shooting death of a woman walking on a San Francisco pier is seeking to overturn his felony gun possession conviction. It was the only charge he was found guilty of after a jury acquitted him of murder.

Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate had been deported five times at the time of the shooting and was wanted for a sixth deportation proceeding.

Lawyers for Garcia-Zarate filed the expected appeal last week in state court. He contends he didn't know a gun was in his hands because it was wrapped in a T-shirt when it fired and he dropped it almost immediately after picking it up. He argues in court papers that he can't be convicted of illegal gun possession.

Garcia-Zarate was charged with murder and illegal gun possession for the fatal shooting of Kate Steinle in July 2015. Steinle was shot in the back was she walked with her father on a city pier crowded with tourists taking in the sights.

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Kate Steinle deadly shooting case
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Kate Steinle deadly shooting case
Jim Steinle (L), father of murder victim Kathryn Steinle (in photo, R), allegedly at the hands of an undocumented immigrant, testifies about his daughter's murder during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on U.S. immigration enforcement policies, on Capitol Hill in Washington July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez is led into the Hall of Justice for his arraignment in San Francisco, California July 7, 2015. Francisco Sanchez, 45, was charged with murder on Monday for last week's shooting of Kathryn Steinle, 32. The case drew national attention after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump used the killing to decry U.S.-Mexico border security. REUTERS/POOL/Michael Macor
A Coast Guard vessel passes a makeshift memorial for shooting victim Kathryn Steinle on Pier 14 in San Francisco, California July 6, 2015. Steinle, 32, was fatally shot as she walked with her father along the popular Embarcadero pier on July 1, 2015 in what San Francisco police described as an apparent random attack. The random fatal shooting, allegedly by an immigrant, proves the United States must tighten its borders, according to a statement on Friday by U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is facing heavy criticism for his comments about Mexicans. REUTERS/Noah Berger
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 21: Liz Sullivan (C) mother of Kathryn 'Kate' Steinle who was killed by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco, is comforted while her son Brad Steinle (R) sits nearby during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, July 21, 2015 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony from family members who have had loved ones killed by illegal immigrants. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 21: A large photo of Kathryn 'Kate' Steinle who was killed by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco, is shown while her dad Jim Steinle testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, July 21, 2015 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony from family members who have had loved ones killed by illegal immigrants. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, arrested in connection with the July 1, 2015, shooting of Kate Steinle on a pier in San Francisco, California, U.S. is seen in an undated photo released by the San Francisco Police Department. Courtesy San Francisco Police Department/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 01: Jim Steinle, father of Kate Steinle who was killed by an undocumented immigrant, speaks during a news conference on September 1, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The family of Kate Steinle who was killed by an undocumented immigrant, have filed claims against San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, the Bureau of Land Management and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their role in their daughter's death. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 01: Brad Steinle, (L) brother of Kate Steinle who was killed by an undocumented immigrant, is comforted by his father Jim Steinle (R) as he speaks during a news conference on September 1, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The family of Kate Steinle who was killed by an undocumented immigrant, have filed claims against San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, the Bureau of Land Management and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their role in their daughter's death. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 21: Liz Sullivan (C) mother of Kathryn 'Kate' Steinle who was killed by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco, is comforted while her son Brad Steinle (R) sits nearby during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, July 21, 2015 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony from family members who have had loved ones killed by illegal immigrants. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 21: Jim Steinle, father of Kathryn 'Kate' Steinle who was killed by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco, arrives to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, July 21, 2015 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony from family members who have had loved ones killed by illegal immigrants. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 01: Frank Pitre, attorney for the family of Kate Steinle who was killed by an undocumented immigrant, speaks during a news conference on September 1, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The family of Kate Steinle who was killed by an undocumented immigrant, have filed claims against San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, the Bureau of Land Management and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their role in their daughter's death. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
JUST IN: Jury finds Mexican man not guilty of murder in 2015 San Francisco pier shooting death of Kate Steinle; fou… https://t.co/p1uxsCj6VM
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 01: Liz Sullivan and Jim Steinle, the parents of Kate Steinle who was killed by an undocumented immigrant, speak during a news conference on September 1, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The family of Kate Steinle who was killed by an undocumented immigrant, have filed claims against San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, the Bureau of Land Management and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their role in their daughter's death. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 01: (R-L) Brad Steinle, Liz Sullivan and Jim Steinle, the family of Kate Steinle who was killed by an undocumented immigrant, look on during a news conference on September 1, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The family of Kate Steinle who was killed by an undocumented immigrant, have filed claims against San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, the Bureau of Land Management and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their role in their daughter's death. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 01: (L-R) Brad Steinle, Liz Sullivan and Jim Steinle, the family of Kate Steinle who was killed by an undocumented immigrant, look on during a news conference on September 1, 2015 in San Francisco, California. The family of Kate Steinle who was killed by an undocumented immigrant, have filed claims against San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, the Bureau of Land Management and Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their role in their daughter's death. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Steve, who declined to give a last name, leaves flowers at a makeshift memorial for shooting victim Kathryn Steinle on Pier 14 in San Francisco, California July 6, 2015. Steinle, 32, was fatally shot as she walked with her father along the popular Embarcadero pier on July 1, 2015 in what San Francisco police described as an apparent random attack. The random fatal shooting, allegedly by an immigrant, proves the United States must tighten its borders, according to a statement on Friday by U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is facing heavy criticism for his comments about Mexicans. REUTERS/Noah Berger
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi (L) leads Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez into the Hall of Justice for his arraignment in San Francisco, California July 7, 2015. Francisco Sanchez, 45, was charged with murder on Monday for last week's shooting of Kathryn Steinle, 32. The case drew national attention after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump used the killing to decry U.S.-Mexico border security. REUTERS/POOL/Michael Macor
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Garcia-Zarate had been recently released from jail after prosecutors dropped a 20-year-old marijuana possession charge. He had been transferred to San Francisco's jail after serving nearly four years in federal prison for illegal re-entry into the United States.

The San Francisco sheriff released Garcia-Zarate from jail despite a request from federal immigration officials to detain him until they could pick him up for deportation proceedings. San Francisco's so-called sanctuary city policy bars local law enforcement officials from cooperating with most federal immigration investigations.

The shooting and the city's sanctuary policy turned into a major campaign issue in multiple national and local races across the country. President Donald Trump repeatedly referred to the shooting during his 2016 campaign to bolster his argument for tougher immigration policies and his opposition to sanctuary cities.

The gun used in the shooting belonged to a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger who reported it stolen from his car parked in San Francisco. A San Francisco jury in 2017 acquitted Garcia-Zarate of murder but found him guilty of illegal gun possession and he was sentenced to the time he spent in jail awaiting trial.

Trump called the verdict in a Tweet "disgraceful" and former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions blamed San Francisco's sanctuary city policy for Steinle's death. The U.S. Attorney in San Francisco then filed federal charges of illegal gun possession and he was transferred to federal custody.

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Reaction to verdict in Kate Steinle case
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Reaction to verdict in Kate Steinle case
A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case! No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration.
I am disappointed and angry at the not guilty verdict for Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an illegal alien who had several… https://t.co/soX05gmTnj
Sessions' statement on Steinle verdict: "I urge the leaders of the nation’s communities to reflect on the outcome o… https://t.co/tmvw4xKXJt
Such an insane recent news cycle, and now this?? Outrageous “not guilty” verdict in murder case of Kate Steinle. Th… https://t.co/0qFmqbc96Q
Jury convinced that illegal alien killed Kate Steinle accidentally. She would still be alive if we had a wall.
If this worthless Congress doesn’t pass #KatesLaw now, there is no hope for this nation. https://t.co/vFa1rayYFP
I wonder how the jurors in the Kate Steinle trial will feel when they lay down to go to sleep tonight knowing they… https://t.co/Yb51vKQrJw
A San Francisco jury finds an illegal alien not guilty of murdering Kate Steinle. In California - there is no justi… https://t.co/kg72rDByxA
Prayers for the Steinle family. Feds should immediately charge the thug with a variety of immigration crimes. What’s happening to America?
California's dangerous sanctuary cities policy cost #KateSteinle her life & gave her no justice. Thankful to join… https://t.co/g3Lqfk4xLP
Very upsetting #KateSteinle verdict. This is a sad day for our country. Elected officials in Sanctuary Cities and t… https://t.co/g42CTrK9d4
Kate Steinle’s family has suffered an agonizing loss and now have been denied justice for the man who shot and killed her. 1/2
If our immigration laws were enforced, Kate would be alive today. I defy anyone to defend that murderer’s right to… https://t.co/S1H1ng0Ncx
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That case has been on hold pending the outcome of a closely watched U.S. Supreme Court case challenging federal prosecutors' authority to duplicate state court charges in federal court. If the Supreme Court finds the practice unconstitutional double jeopardy, a federal judge said he would dismiss Garcia-Zarate's federal gun case.

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