Soldier sentenced to 25 years in prison in BLM protester killing
(AUSTIN, Texas) — An Army sergeant convicted of murder in the fatal 2020 shooting of an armed Black Lives Matter protester during a demonstration in Austin, Texas, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Wednesday, even as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott seeks to grant him a pardon.
Attorneys for 35-year-old Daniel Perry asked a judge to consider giving their client a 10-year sentence for the murder of Garrett Foster, a U.S. Air Force veteran, citing Perry’s lack of criminal history and presenting evidence that he has post-traumatic stress disorder from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
But Travis County, Texas, Criminal Courts Judge Clifford Brown rejected the plea for leniency and sentenced Perry to 25 years in prison.
Prosecutors have asked Brown to consider a sentence of at least 25 years.
“This man is a loaded gun, ready to go off at any perceived threat. He’s going to do it again,” Travis County Assistant District Attorney Guillermo Gonzalez told Brown during Tuesday’s hearing.
Brown announced his sentencing after Foster’s mother and sister testified Wednesday morning.
“Do you have any idea how hard it is to sit here facing the evil that killed my son, sitting here thinking how surreal it is that this is happening, finally. After three long years, we’re finally getting justice for Garrett,” Sheila Foster testified.
Anna Mayo, Garrett Foster’s sister, testified that her brother was an U.S. Air Force veteran who comes from a family of military combat veterans, including her father.
“When I look at you, I see a very small man who used his military status as a means to kill,” Mayo testified, speaking directly to Perry, who sat at the defense table wearing black and gray striped jail clothes and with his head bowed down. “I do not see any honorable traits and I see no remorse for what you’ve done. You can’t even look at my family.”
Perry, who was an active-duty U.S. Army sergeant based in Texas at Fort Hood, was working as a driver for a ridesharing company when he drove onto a street crowded with protesters on July 25, 2020, in downtown Austin.
Foster, 28, who was white, was pushing his fiancee Whitney Mitchell’s wheelchair during the Austin protest over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis when authorities said protesters surrounded Perry’s ridesharing car. Foster, who was legally wielding an AK-47 rifle in accordance with Texas’ open carry law, was fatally shot when he approached Perry’s vehicle, according to prosecutors.
During the trial, defense attorneys argued that Perry fired at Foster in self-defense, alleging the protester pointed the rifle in his direction. But prosecutors argued that Perry could have avoided the fatal confrontation by simply driving away and witnesses testified at the trial that Foster never raised his rifle at Perry.
After a jury convicted Perry of murder on April 7, Abbott said he was “working as swiftly as Texas law allows” to pardon Perry.
Abbott criticized both the jury’s decision to convict Perry and Travis County District Attorney José Garza for pursuing the case.
“Texas has one of the strongest ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws of self-defense that cannot be nullified by a jury or a progressive District Attorney,” Abbott said in a statement.
During Tuesday’s hearing, prosecutors called Mitchell, who lost both her legs to sepsis, to the witness stand and she gave emotional testimony of how difficult her life his become since losing Foster, her primary caregiver.
“It’s hard to sleep in my bed because he’s not there. To have to learn how to do all of that stuff that Garrett was doing for me for a decade, and it’s hard because I have to get comfortable being vulnerable,” Mitchell testified, according to ABC Austin affiliate station KVUE.
Defense attorneys called forensic psychologist Greg Hupp to testify. Hupp said he believes Perry suffers from PTSD and has personality characteristics consistent with an autism spectrum disorder.
Following the trial, Judge Brown unsealed court records revealing racist messages and anti-protest sentiments Perry posted on social media prior to the shooting. In one of the social media posts, Perry wrote, “Black Lives Matter is racist to white people … It is official I am racist because I do not agree with people acting like monkeys.”
During the two-week trial, the jury did not see or hear Perry’s social media posts.
Two soldiers, Ronald Wilson and Traveon Napper, who served in the Army with Perry were called to the witness stand Tuesday and both testified that Perry, in their opinion, is not a racist. Wilson testified that sharing such social media posts was a way to cope with the daily stress of serving in the military.
Perry’s mother, Rachel Perry, also took the witness stand, testifying her son has shown remorse for the fatal shooting.
“He cried a lot when this happened,” Rachel Perry testified. “His intention was just to protect himself, not to go out and shoot anybody.”
Following the Perry’s conviction, his attorney’s requested a new trial, citing juror misconduct. The defense attorney’s alleged jurors brought outside information into the jury deliberation room concerning self-defense law during their deliberations.
Judge Brown rejected the motion for a new trial. The defense attorney did not immediately say they will appeal the conviction.
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