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Kate Steinle Murder Suspect Undergoes Name Change

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The man accused of fatally shooting Kathryn Steinle as she walked on San Francisco's Pier 14 with her father in 2015, igniting a national debate on Sanctuary City policies, has a new name, his defense attorney revealed on Tuesday.

The man largely known as Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who was arrested on a murder charge shortly after Steinle's fatal shooting and will be going to trial soon, is now being referred to by the court as Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: The Murder Of Kate Steinle

Matt Gonzalez, chief attorney for the public defender's office, said the name, which was previously listed as one of a number of Lopez-Sanchez aliases, is the one listed on the 54-year-old's birth certificate and has been used in some prior federal cases.

"He's going to trial facing life in prison, we think he should be called by his true name," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said it was not uncommon for immigrants with a history of crossing the border multiple times, as Garcia-Zarate has done, to use different names or be called different names by authorities at various times.

Defense attorneys have said they plan to argue that Steinle's shooting, which was linked to a gun that had been stolen from a federal Bureau of Land Management agent's car in San Francisco several days earlier, was accidental.

RELATED: Murder Weapon Becomes Focus Of Kate Steinle Slaying Trial

Evidence presented at the preliminary hearing suggests the bullet that struck Steinle, a Pleasanton native who had recently moved to San Francisco, was a ricochet.

Garcia-Zarate's arrest and his status as an undocumented immigrant with multiple prior deportations drew national attention and became talking points for conservatives leading up to the November 2016 election.

San Francisco's Sanctuary City policies limiting cooperation by local law enforcement with federal immigration authorities, in particular, drew scrutiny.

Garcia-Zarate had been taken into city custody in March 2015 for a warrant on a marijuana sales charge after he completed a nearly four-year federal sentence for illegal re-entry following deportation.

When the marijuana charge was dropped, local officials released him without notifying immigration authorities despite a pending civil detainer request, as dictated by sheriff's department policy.

Steinle's family filed a wrongful death suit the city of San Francisco and then-Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who had issued a March 2015 memo prohibiting sheriff's employees from giving inmate release dates to federal officials.

However, in January of this year a federal judge dismissed the case against the city and Mirkarimi, while allowing a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management to proceed.

Jury selection in Garcia-Zarate's trial is currently expected to begin the week of Aug. 21.

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