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.
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.
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