The defense in the Kate Steinle murder case dropped another critical piece of information about the weapon used in the shooting today with a filing that reports at least half a dozen other car break-ins on the Embarcadero the night that the gun was stolen.
Although the San Francisco police never followed up on what appears to have been a professional car-thief operation, the Public Defender’s Office found the victim of one of the break-ins, who said that at least five other cars in the immediate vicinity of hers had broken windows.
The evidence makes it even more clear that Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who is accused of killing Steinle, was unlikely to have stolen the gun or had any connection with it before he stumbled onto the Sig Sauer pistol near Pier 14.
“The series of break-ins is consistent with a skilled auto burglar or a ring of thieves … not the defendant, who has no history of committing theft crimes,” the filing states.
The events of that four-day period after a federal agent’s gun was stolen from his car are slowing coming into focus.
It’s clear that the agent from the Bureau of Land Management left a loaded weapon in the car, and that on the night of June 27, 2015, somebody smashed the car window and took it.
The DA’s Office and the police never told the defense lawyers that there was another burglary a few feet away, and refused to give Garcia Zarate’s team the full police report.
But the PD’s Office found the woman who was the victim of that crime anyway, and conducted a phone interview with her Aug. 30, the filing states. She told the police at the time that there were multiple break-ins at the scene, and among the items found in the vicinity was a spare magazine for the BLM agent’s gun.
“Months later, items stolen from her car … including her birth certificate and work documents, were returned to her in the mail from an unknown source, after Garcia Zarate was already in custody,” the filing states. “That [the] documents were returned to her after the publicity surrounding this case is a further indication that the auto burglar wanted nothing to do with the gun, or the fallout of this tragic incident. If the auto burglar committed a string of burglaries, it would make sense that they would decide to abandon the gun, wanting to avoid the extra trouble and potential legal exposure associated with possession a gun from a federal agent.”
The prosecution’s theory of the case rests on the idea that Garcia Zarate had the gun for some period of time, and used it to fire the shot that killed Steinle. The defense argues that the gun was ditched on the pier, and that Garcia Zarate found it and discharged it accidentally.
The suggestion that a professional car-thief operation was in business on the Embarcadero that night, found the gun, and decided to get rid of it, could be a key defense argument. “The question of where the gun was found will be a determining factor in this case,” the filing notes.
Judge Samuel Feng will consider whether the string of burglaries can be admitted as evidence at the next hearing, Sept. 5.