Lawsuit from Kate Steinle's parents over stolen gun tossed by San Francisco judge

California judge threw out the lawsuit from the parents of Kate Steinle who claim the federal government was liable in her death by an undocumented man because the weapon 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, according to reports.

“Aside from the fact that the stolen gun was used, there is no evidence that the shooting was in any way connected to the theft,” U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero wrote in his 14-page ruling.

The San Francisco Examiner reported that Spero said it was feasible that “the thief walked half a mile and left the gun where [Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate] found it three and a half days later.”

“It is equally consistent with the evidence in the record, however, that the gun could have passed through the hands of any number of other people, and traveled throughout the San Francisco Bay Area or beyond, before ending up at Pier 14,” Spero wrote.

Spero continued: “Even if the gun was taken directly to Pier 14 by the thief and left there until [Garcia Zarate] found it days later, that separation in time, space, actors, and conduct would be sufficient in this court’s view to break the chain of proximate causation between [Bureau of Land Management ranger John] Woychowski’s purportedly negligent storage of the gun and Steinle’s death.”

Garcia-Zarate, an illegal immigrant, was acquitted in November 2017 of first- and second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and assault with a semi-automatic weapon in the death of Steinle, who was walking on the pier when she was struck by a bullet in the back in July 2015.

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Garcia-Zarate claimed he unwittingly picked up the gun wrapped in a T-shirt, and it fired accidentally. The bullet ricocheted off a concrete walkway and struck Steinle, who was with her father and a family friend.

The Mexican citizen, who had been deported five times, was convicted of one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The 1st District Court of Appeal in August overturned the gun conviction because the judge failed to give the jury the option of acquitting Garcia-Zarate on the theory he only possessed the weapon for a moment.

“The state court ruling has no legal effect on the federal prosecution, which will continue,” said David Anderson, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California. “A repeatedly deported, previously convicted felon has no right to possess a firearm under federal law, even if California extends him sanctuary.”

His trial on federal gun charges is scheduled to begin next week.

“We are disappointed in the ruling,” Alison Cordova, an attorney for the family, said in an emailed statement. “We respectfully disagree with Judge Spero, and we will be filing an appeal.”

Liz Sullivan, right, and Jim Steinle, left, the parents of Kathryn Steinle, answer questions during a news conference on the steps of City Hall Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015, in San Francisco.  (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Liz Sullivan, right, and Jim Steinle, left, the parents of Kathryn Steinle, answer questions during a news conference on the steps of City Hall Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015, in San Francisco.  (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Steinle’s parents had named the federal government as a defendant in their lawsuit because the ranger had allegedly left the gun in plain view in an unlocked car on a downtown street.

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Garcia-Zarate, who was facing deportation proceedings at the time of his arrest in the killing, had been released by county jail officials three months before the tragic event.

The case drew national attention because of Garcia-Zarate's immigration status; it became a rallying cry for supporters of tougher immigration policies.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.