The Austin Chronicle

Killer of Protester Garrett Foster Pardoned, Released From Prison

By Brant Bingamon, May 17, 2024, 11:39am, Newsdesk

Daniel Perry, the Army sergeant convicted one year ago of murdering Black Lives Matter protester Garrett Foster during a march in Downtown Austin in July of 2020, has been pardoned by Gov. Greg Abbott.

The pardon came minutes after the Abbott-appointed members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously recommended it. Perry was released from the prison an hour later, the Statesman reported.

The pardon reversed what is regarded as Travis County District Attorney José Garza’s most high-profile conviction to date. Garza condemned it, saying the governor and board should be “ashamed of themselves.”

“The Board and the Governor have put their politics over justice and made a mockery of our legal system,” Garza said in a statement. “Their actions are contrary to the law and demonstrate that there are two classes of people in this state where some lives matter and some lives do not. They have sent a message to Garrett Foster’s family, to his partner, and to our community that his life does not matter.”

The pardon was also condemned by Foster’s fiancée, Whitney Mitchell, a quadruple amputee who Foster cared for and with whom he attended over 20 marches in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Mike Ramos in Austin.

“I loved Garrett Foster,” Mitchell said. “I thought we were going to grow old together. He was the love of my life. He still is. I am heartbroken by this lawlessness. Governor Abbott has shown that, to him, only certain lives matter. [He] has desecrated the life of a murdered Texan and U.S. Air Force veteran, and impugned the jury’s just verdict. He has declared that Texans who hold political views that are different from his – and different from those in power – can be killed in this State with impunity.”

Perry killed Foster on July 25, 2020, just before 10pm, after driving abruptly into two dozen marchers at the corner of Fourth Street and Congress Avenue and coming to a halt. As marchers surrounded his car, Foster approached the driver’s side window, openly carrying an AK-47 across his chest. The window opened and Perry shot Foster five times. He drove away and called police, who interrogated him and let him go.

At Perry’s trial in May of 2023, his attorneys, Doug O’Connell and Clint Broden, argued he had shot Foster in self-defense after Foster raised the barrel of his rifle. They also claimed that Garza’s prosecution of Perry was politically motivated, noting that Garza had promised to present the case to a grand jury in the months after Foster’s killing, as he was running for D.A.

Prosecutors responded by showing the jury text messages and social media posts in which Perry expressed anger at Black Lives Matter protesters. ​​"I might have to kill a few people on my way to work, they are rioting outside my apartment complex," he wrote to a friend in June of 2020. "I might go to Dallas to shoot looters," he wrote on another occasion. He also encouraged violence in a variety of social media posts. Observers believed that the social media posts were crucial to Perry’s subsequent conviction.

O’Connell thanked Abbott in a statement after Perry’s pardon. He also thanked the Board of Pardons and Paroles, writing, “They conducted a very thorough investigation over many months. All the interested parties and many of the witnesses were interviewed by the board. They took the time needed to get to the truth behind what really happened.”

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