The bullet that killed a San Francisco woman whose death added to the national debate about illegal immigration ricocheted off the ground about 100 yards away before hitting her in the back, a retired police investigator testified Monday.
Former officer John Evans said he and other investigators working on the case found a “strike mark” on the pier’s concrete surface four days after the shooting of Kate Steinle by a Mexican national who had been deported five times.
Investigators had overlooked the mark on the night the 32-year-old Steinle was killed, said Evans, who later retired from the department.
Authorities returned to the popular pier four days later, after the bullet was found to be partially flattened, indicating it had ricocheted, he said.
The testimony was significant because lawyers for defendant Jose Ines Garcia Zarate argue the ricochet shows the shooting was accidental.
Prosecutors have charged Garcia Zarate with murder, alleging he meant to point and shoot the gun at pedestrians on the pier on July 1, 2015.
The shooting sparked a political furor during last year’s presidential race, with then-candidate Donald Trump citing the killing as a reason to toughen U.S. immigration policies.
Garcia Zarate had been released from the San Francisco jail about three months before the shooting, despite a request by federal immigration authorities to detain him for further deportation proceedings.
San Francisco is a sanctuary city, with local law enforcement officials barred from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. President Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding to cities with similar immigration policies.
Garcia Zarate was arrested shortly after Steinle died in the arms of her father, who has attended nearly every day of the trial with his wife and son.
Garcia Zarate said he found the gun wrapped in a T-shirt on the pier and it accidentally fired when he picked it up.
A Bureau of Land Management ranger reported the semiautomatic handgun had been stolen from his SUV several days before the shooting. A police diver found it in San Francisco Bay the day after the shooting.
Evans said it appeared the bullet struck the ground about 15 feet from where Garcia Zarate was sitting and then traveled the length of a football field before striking Steinle.