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Ninth Circuit upholds dismissal of negligence lawsuit brought by Kate Steinle parents

A federal appeals court today upheld the dismissal of a negligence claim against the city of San Francisco and former Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi by the parents of a woman killed by a bullet from a gun held by an undocumented immigrant.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Mirkarimi was acting within his discretion when he issued a 2015 memo limiting the amount of information jail staff could give federal authorities about the release of inmates who were undocumented immigrants.

The court said that while federal laws require sharing of some information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the laws “plainly and unambiguously” do not require notification of jail release dates. Kate Steinle, 32, was killed while walking on Pier 14 in San Francisco on July 1, 2015, by a ricocheting bullet from a gun held by Jose Ines Garcia Zarate.

Garcia Zarate, a Mexican citizen with a history of drug convictions and deportations, was released from San Francisco county jail two and a half months earlier. The jail staff did not inform ICE about the release.

Garcia Zarate was acquitted in a San Francisco Superior Court trial of Steinle’s murder, but was convicted of being an ex-felon in possession of a gun. He is appealing that conviction.

The lawsuit by parents James Steinle and Elizabeth Sullivan still contains an additional claim against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The gun held by Garcia Zarate was stolen four days earlier from a bureau ranger’s car, and the parents claim the ranger violated a duty to secure the loaded handgun properly.

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