Michelle Lo was visiting San Francisco on July 1, 2015, and was at Pier 14 when Kate Steinle was fatally shot. Lo testified in San Francisco Superior Court on Tuesday that she saw Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who is charged in the killing of Steinle, at the pier that evening, though she did not see him allegedly shoot Steinle. (Vicki Behringer/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Kate Steinle killing: Witness testifies alleged shooter was laughing, spinning on pier

A witness to the death of Kate Steinle testified in court Tuesday that the undocumented homeless man charged with her killing was laughing and spinning around on a chair moments before a shot rang out on the pier.

The witness, a tourist named Michelle Lo who was visiting San Francisco on July 1, 2015, identified defendant Jose Ines Garcia Zarate as the man she saw sitting on Pier 14 two years ago.

“He was just looking at the people and turning ‘round and ‘round in that chair,” Lo testified in court through a Cantonese interpreter. “He looked at everybody who walked past him.”

“I saw him grinning,” she added.

Her testimony comes just a day after jurors in San Francisco Superior Court heard opening statements in the trial. The prosecution claims the shooting was intentional while the defense argues that it was an accident.

SEE RELATED: Defense attorney pins Kate Steinle killing on ‘freakish ricochet,’ prosecutor claims shooting was intentional

The case is widely known because President Donald Trump trumpeted the killing while calling for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico during his presidential campaign.

Lo did not witness Garcia Zarate shoot Steinle, and prosecutor Diana Garcia has said that none of her witnesses saw the killing.

“I heard a scream, a very sharp scream, as though someone was in fright like, ‘Oh my God,’” Lo said. “I saw the woman on the ground.”

But on the day of the shooting, Lo snapped photographs of her family on the pier. One picture is said to show Steinle walking by Garcia Zarate on the pier.

“When you walked by he would just look at you, he would grin and just spin in the chair,” Lo said.

Lo showed the pictures to police and the images helped police find Garcia Zarate after the shooting.

Lo also testified that she saw Garcia Zarate’s face.

“I saw him physically that day, and then I saw him on television, that’s why I can remember what he looked like,” Lo said.

But defense attorney Matt Gonzalez raised questions as to whether Lo actually saw Garcia Zarate that day.

Reading off a police interview transcript, Gonzalez said that Lo told officers after the shooting that “‘I didn’t see his face.’”

However, Garcia disputed whether the transcript was correct.

Lo is expected to continue testifying Tuesday afternoon.

Untitled-1

Read more criminal justice news on the Crime Ink page in print. Follow us on Twitter: @sfcrimeink

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Legal challenge halts SFPD jurisdiction over dog attacks on federal land

Dog owners beware — canine attacks are now consequence-free on federal land… Continue reading

49ers battle with the Saints lives up to its billing

Kittle’s 39-yard catch-and-run had placed San Francisco in prime position for a game-winning field goal as the 49ers trailed 46-45

SF police shoot burglary suspect in Mission District

Man allegedly attacked officers before being shot in first on-duty SFPD shooting since June 2018

Not even heavy rain can stop the 25th annual SantaCon

Jolly, drunken fun event for Santas is the ‘least wonderful time of the year’ for many locals

Ronen says $100M service expansion is ‘going to fix’ SF’s mental health crisis

Compromise mental health plan has backing of mayor, full Board of Supervisors

Most Read