President Trump late Thursday tweeted that the not guilty verdict in the Kate Steinle murder trial was “disgraceful,” highlighting his apparent frustration at the resolution of a case he had cited during his presidential campaign as a justification for tougher immigration enforcement.
“A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case!” Trump tweeted after the jury rejected possible charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to first-degree murder. “No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration.”
Early Friday, Trump reaffirmed his support for the border wall and warned Democrats they will pay a "big price" in future elections for being "weak" on crime.
Jim Steinle, who was walking with his 32-year-old daughter when she was killed, echoed Trump’s sentiments, telling the San Francisco Chronicle the family was saddened and shocked by the verdict.
"There's no other way you can coin it. Justice was rendered, but it was not served," he said in what he called the last interview he would do about the case.
A jury earlier Thursday found Jose Ines Garcia Zarate not guilty in Steinle’s killing on a San Francisco pier during the presidential primary campaign in 2015.
U.S. immigration officials said they will deport Garcia Zarate, who had been deported five times and was wanted for a sixth deportation when Steinle was fatally shot in the back while walking with her father.
The killing touched off a fierce national immigration debate, and was used by then-candidate Trump to push for a wall on the Mexican border.
"From Day 1 this case was used as a means to foment hate, to foment division and to foment a program of mass deportation. It was used to catapult a presidency along that philosophy of hate of others," defense attorney Francisco Ugarte said after the verdict. "I believe today is a day of vindication for the rest of immigrants."
The case spotlighted San Francisco's "sanctuary city" policy, which limits local officials from cooperating with U.S. immigration authorities.
Politics, however, did not come up in the month-long trial that featured extensive testimony from ballistics experts. Defense attorneys argued that Garcia Zarate was a hapless homeless man who killed Steinle in a freak accident. Prosecutors said he meant to shoot and kill her.
Garcia Zarate did not deny shooting Steinle and said it was an accident.
Jurors did find him guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm, meaning he knowingly had a firearm but there was no intent for him to hurt or shoot anyone. Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the count carries a potential sentence of 16 months to three years behind bars.
The family did not attend the reading of the verdict. Jurors left without comment and the judge sealed their names.
Before the shooting, Garcia Zarate finished a federal prison sentence for illegal re-entry into the United States and had been transferred to San Francisco's jail in March 2015 to face a 20-year-old charge for selling marijuana.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.