In testimony on Day Four of the trial of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate for the July 2015 murder of Kate Steinle, Bureau of Land Management Ranger John Woychowski described how he had secured his handgun in his car on a San Francisco street the gun that would ultimately be stolen, allegedly discarded under a bench on or near Pier 14, and then used by Garcia Zarate in the shooting.
As KQED reports from the courtroom on Thursday, Woychowski says that he was on his way to a two-week work assignment with the BLM in Helena, Montana, and he was taking his family along for the trip. He was driving from Southern California up the California coast with his then-fiancee and three children, ages 5, 10 and 14, and they decided to stop for dinner in San Francisco around 9:30 p.m. on June 27, 2015. He parked his vehicle on the west side of the Embarcadero, across from Pier 5, several blocks from where the shooting would take place four days later.
Woychowski told the court, as ABC 7 recounts, that he stashed the .40-caliber Sig Sauer P239, his secondary duty weapon, "in a holster inside a backpack stashed under the front seat of his SUV."
“It was well-lit, metered parking with other pedestrians in the area,” Woychowski testified, according to KQED. “I thought it would be pretty safe.”
Since the family was traveling, there were likely a lot of items in the car that would be enticing to thieves, and Woychowski further testified, per ABC 7, that he "spoke to someone he took to be a meter maid or security guard in the area who said he would be patrolling until 11 p.m., and took that as additional assurance his vehicle would be safe."
Of course we know how this story ends, and his vehicle was broken into, as so many vehicles are on SF streets, only this time the theft had deadly consequences.
Attorney Matt Gonzalez, who is defending Garcia Zarate, went hard at Woychowski in his questioning, as ABC 7 reports, asking whether he had violated BLM policy in leaving the loaded weapon behind in his car, and questioning whether the "security guard" Woychowski spoke to on the Embarcadero that night might actually have been involved with the theft. As KRON reports, Gonzalez also pointedly asked Woychowski whether he felt he bore any responsibility for Steinle's death, to which the prosecution objected, and the judge sustained the objection.
Additionally, Woychowski testified that he did not believe the gun had a "hair pull" trigger, as the defense will be seeking to argue.
Day Five of the trial continues Friday.