The Steinle crime scene: The gun, the shirt ….

... and scant evidence that Zarate was "fleeing" Pier 14 after the tragic shooting

San Francisco police Officer Scott Hurley is trained to discover evidence or explosives suspected to be underwater.

But on July 2nd, as he felt through debris, boulders, and silt on the Bay floor in zero visibility he veered off the course in his search. It was then that he found the gun: “My hand slipped through the cervices between two rocks. And my hand touched something that felt unique,” Hurley said Wednesday in San Francisco Superior Court.

During opening statements, Matt Gonzalez referred to the gun that was found in the Bay. Drawing by Vicki Behringer

Hurley had found the stolen .40-caliber handgun, that the day before had fired the single bullet that killed Kate Steinle as she strolled with her father along the pier.

On the third day of the trial of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who is charged with the fatal shooting, the prosecution focused on the aftermath of the death in an effort to prove that the 45-year old Mexican citizen
intentionally shot Steinle and should be convicted of second-degree murder. 

In her opening statements, Assistant District Attorney Diana Garcia said Garcia Zarate’s actions after the shooting proved his guilty state of mind. The prosecution today presented witnesses that said he tossed the firearm into the Bay and walked away as bystanders rushed to aid Steinle. 

Zarate’s attorney, Matt Gonzalez, chief trail lawyer at the public defender’s office, said in his opening statement that the evidence that will be presented to the jury supports an accidental discharge.

Gonzalez said Zarate tossed the gun into the Bay because he was frightened it had gone off and was afraid it would continue firing, not because he was trying to cover up a crime. Zarate, his lawyer said, found the gun wrapped in what appeared to be a shirt.
Garcia asked Hurley if they found a T-shirt while looking for the gun. 

On cross-examination, Gonzalez raised the possibility that the T-shirt or cloth could have been buried or swept out into the Bay — or Hurley, who was working in very difficult conditions, could simply have missed it. Hurley said that he was not instructed to search for a shirt or cloth while underwater.

The pistol in question had been stolen from a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger’s car a few days before the shooting; the off-duty ranger had parked along the Embarcadero. No arrests have been made with regards to the burglary, and the federal agent has since been promoted and faced no criminal charges.

Towards the end of the day, the jury saw surveillance videos of Zarate leaving the pier after the shooting and just before his arrests. The video show Zarate walking around the Embarcadero often pausing to look into trash-cans. He does not appear to be running, or as the DA put it, “fleeing the scene.” The video of his arrest shows Zarate walking towards the police car before putting his hands up and lying on the ground.