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Gov. Abbott calls for pardon of Army sergeant convicted in protester's death in Texas

A jury found Daniel Perry guilty in the shooting. Gov. Greg Abbott announced his desire Saturday for Perry to be granted a state pardon.

An Army sergeant who fatally shot a protester in 2020 at an Austin demonstration against police brutality and racial injustice was convicted Friday of murder.

A Travis County jury found Daniel Perry, 35, guilty in the death of Garrett Foster, 28.

Police said Perry, based at the time 70 miles north at Fort Hood, was driving in downtown Austin on the evening of July 25, 2020, when he encountered demonstrators in the street and came to a stop.

Foster was legally carrying a semi-automatic rifle when he approached the intersection where protesters had gathered, police said, and was fatally shot by Perry, who stayed in the vehicle and used a handgun.

Perry claimed to police that Foster, an Air Force veteran, had pointed the weapon at him, inspiring him to shoot in self-defense, officials said. Foster was pronounced dead at a hospital.

The day of Perry's arrest more than a year later, after a county grand jury returned a murder indictment against him, Perry was freed on $300,000 surety bond, Travis County District Attorney José Garza said at the time.

Perry’s stint in the Army will end as a result of the conviction, his attorney, Clint Brode, said by text.

Austin police investigate a homicide shooting which occurred at a demonstration against police violence in downtown Austin, on July 25, 2020.
Austin police investigate a homicide shooting at a demonstration against police violence in downtown Austin on July 25, 2020.Stephen Spillman / USA Today Network file

“Daniel was most crushed that his conviction will end his Army service,” the lawyer said. “He loved being a soldier for our country.” 

He had remained on active duty during his prosecution, and he had been reassigned to duty at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, according to the publication Stars and Stripes.

Although sentencing for Perry, who faces up to life in prison, was expected in the coming days, Gov. Greg Abbott on Saturday may have upended the process by announcing his desire for Perry to be granted a state pardon.

"I am working as swiftly as Texas law allows regarding the pardon of Sgt. Perry," Abbott tweeted.

Abbott suggested Perry should have been exempted from prosecution and Friday's verdict under the state's "stand your ground" law, which allows Texans to open fire when people or property are threatened with serious violence, kidnapping or robbery. The law considers homes and vehicles primary spaces for such a defense.

Abbott said he'd asked requested the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to approve a pardon, which is required before the governor may grant one.

Among considerations for the board is "evidence of actual innocence," according to state law, and whether two of three trial officials endorse a pardon. They include the judge, the district attorney, the sheriff and the police chief in the county where a conviction took place.

Asked whether he had a response to Abbott's announcement, Brode, the attorney, said the defense was "completely focused" on preparing for sentencing.

Perry, who was led away in handcuffs after the verdict was read Friday, planned to appeal, Brode said.

“We are disappointed in the verdict both as it relates to Daniel Perry and as it relates to a citizen’s ability to defend themselves,” Brode said by text Friday. “We are hopeful that the case will ultimately be overturned.”

Foster had been at the demonstration in Austin with his fiancée, Whitney Mitchell, his mother, Sheila Foster, told ABC’s "Good Morning America" a few days after his death.

The couple, dating since they were 17, were fixtures at protests against police abuse that spring and summer, she said.

The May 25, 2020, killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for 9½ minutes sparked protests across the country.

Jurors and relatives of the victim and the defendant all reacted emotionally to the decision Friday.

"There's no winners in this," Garrett Foster's father, Steve Foster, said outside the courtroom. "Just glad it's over."