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Should people get away with ‘accidental’ shootings?

Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, right, is led into the courtroom by San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, left, and Assistant District Attorney Diana Garciaor, center, for his arraignment at the Hall of Justice in San Francisco. A jury reached a verdict Thursday in the trial of the Mexican man at center of immigration debate in the San Francisco pier shooting. (Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool, File)

“Disgraceful” was the president’s word for the verdict this week on the illegal immigrant whose carelessness with a gun he found left a young woman dead as she was walking along the San Francisco waterfront two-and-a-half years ago.

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The jury acquitted Jose Ines Garcia Zarate of all charges except one — felony possession of a firearm.

That’s because the trial was confined to whether he actually intended to kill the victim, 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle. The trial did not focus on the man’s repeated illegal border crossings and not on the president’s comments about the case. As CBS’s John Blackstone explained, “The killing was a centerpiece for Trump’s campaign.”

Steinle was walking with her father on a San Francisco pier when the 32-year-old was shot in the back, CBS reported. Soon after, police arrested Garcia Zarate, an undocumented immigrant, who had been deported to Mexico five times. He was recently released from jail, but he hadn’t been turned over to immigration because of sanctuary city policies. Defense attorneys argued he found the gun and it fired accidentally, hitting Steinle 78 feet away.

There were plenty of damning details — he found the gun under a park bench and apparently decided to play with it, twirling it around on a chair for at least 20 minutes before he fired. After firing the weapon he ran away, according to court documents.

But the prosecution could not show that he intended to kill anyone.

The gun, by the way, had been stolen from a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger a week before the shooting.

Sounds like one problem — besides the decision not to deport him sooner — is the law that basically lets people get away with an “accidental” shooting. I’ve been told by gun rights activists that there really is no such thing as an accidental shooting. If the gun is in your hands and it goes off you should be held responsible for whatever that bullet does, they say.

In any case, Garcia Zarate will be sentenced to prison and probably deported again.

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