Flashback: The last words of Kate Steinle, murdered by an illegal immigrant

December 1, 2017

Flashback: The last words of Kate Steinle, murdered by an illegal immigrant Image Source: Screenshot

The young life of Kathryn “Kate” Steinle tragically ended at the hands of an illegal immigrant in July 2015. On Thursday, jurors found the perpetrator, Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, not guilty of murder; he was, however, declared guilty of assault with a deadly weapon.

The frustrating decision has prompted a look back at the circumstances of Steinle’s death, including the account of Steinle’s father, Jim, who was on the San Francisco pier with his daughter during her final moments. He revealed his daughter’s final words to the Senate Judiciary Committee during a 2015 hearing: after she suffered the fatal gunshot wound, she said, “Help me, Dad,” before dying in his arms.

Kate was struck in the back by a bullet from Garcia Zarate, who fired one shot from a stolen .40 caliber handgun. At the time, Garcia Zarate was on probation, having been released from a San Francisco jail just three months prior to the shooting.

He had previously been deported five times, but was unable to be detained due to San Francisco’s sanctuary city policies.

The Tragedy

In 2015, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing regarding undocumented immigrants, featuring the testimonies of those who lost family members due to the criminal acts of those in the U.S. illegally.

Jim Steinle was among those who spoke.

He told the committee:

Kate was beautiful, kind, happy, caring, loving and deep in faith. Kate had a special soul, a kind and giving heart, the most contagious laugh, and a smile that would light up a room. Kate loved to travel, spend time with her friends, and most of all spend time with her family. In fact, the day she was killed, we were walking arm in arm on Pier 14 in San Francisco, enjoying a wonderful day together. Suddenly a shot rang out, Kate fell, and looked at me and said “Help me, Dad.” Those are the last words I will ever hear from my daughter.

Watch his full comments:

“Suddenly, a shot rang out. Kate fell and looked at me, and said ‘help me, Dad.’ Those

“Suddenly, a shot rang out. Kate fell and looked at me, and said ‘help me, Dad.’ Those were the last words I will ever hear from my daughter.” Heartbreaking words from Kate Steinle’s father, Jim Steinle, as he testifies before Congress on public safety policy in sanctuary cities.

Steinle Family Struggle

Before the jury’s decision on Thursday, Jim Steinle recalled his heartbreaking final memory of his daughter. He told the San Francisco Chronicle:

I can hardly talk about it today. It’s a horrific moment that you can’t get out of your mind. That’s how all three of us suffered. It’s all-encompassing, and 2 and a half years later, we’re still in court. I dreaded every moment when I thought about it, and I said what I had to say, and you can’t put a ribbon around it or anything like that. You just relive this, day after day.

The Steinle family said they were not looking for retaliation in the verdict. Instead, they expressed frustration and sadness about the series of errors and policies that led up to the circumstances of their daughter’s death.

“I think Kate’s gone,” Jim Steinle said. “We’re not going there. We don’t have hate. Of course we’re deep in our faith and we go to church. We believe Kate’s in a better place, and we think about her on that level. But no, we have no vindictiveness.”

After the Decision

The family chose not to attend court to hear the jury’s verdict, but after hearing of the decision, they were left stunned.

“We’re just shocked — saddened and shocked… That’s about it,” Jim Steinle said. “There’s no other way you can coin it. Justice was rendered, but it was not served.”

Kate Steinle’s brother, Brad, said the decision didn’t surprise him, considering the “epic failure” that enabled the shooter to roam free, though he was shocked that Garcia Zarate was not even charged with firing the weapon. Brad believes the jury was comprised of those who have no gun knowledge, leading them to believe the defense’s reasoning that the gun “went off accidentally.”

“That jury — God love ’em, God love ’em,” said Steinle’s mother, Liz Sullivan. “Just ridiculous stuff,” she added of the contention.

Now that the case is over, the Steinle family has only their daughter’s final last words — no justice or legislative changes that would prevent this from happening again.

Laura Widener

Laura Widener is a Conservative Institute staff writer. She holds an MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University and an MA in Human Services from Liberty University.