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Texas governor pardons ex-Army sergeant convicted of murdering Black Lives Matter protester

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has pardoned a former U.S. Army sergeant convicted last year of murder in the 2020 death of a Black Lives Matter protester.

Daniel Perry, 37, was serving a 25-year sentence for the July 25, 2020, killing of 28-year-old Garrett Foster on an Austin street. Foster, a U.S. Air Force veteran, was one of thousands of people who protested across the country following Minneapolis police officers’ May 25, 2020, murder of George Floyd.

Foster was legally carrying an AK-47-style assault rifle when he was killed.

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Abbott, a Republican, pardoned Perry minutes after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles announced its unanimous recommendation that Perry be released.

The pardon, which restores all of Perry’s rights — including the right to own firearms, was granted despite the public release of Perry’s emails and online posts, some of which The Associated Press described as “shockingly racist.” The writings, which were excluded from his trial, were made public last May during his sentencing hearing.

In one text sent to a friend, Perry commented on the George Floyd protests by stating he “might go to Dallas to shoot looters.” In a Facebook post a month before Foster’s killing, he called himself a racist.

“It is official,” the post read. “I am a racist because I do not agree with people acting like animals at the zoo.”

Travis County District Attorney José Garza condemned the pardon in a statement Thursday, saying the board and Abbott have “made a mockery of our legal system,” according to NBC News.

“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,” Garza said. “They have sent a message to Garrett Foster’s family, to his partner, and to our community that his life does not matter.”

Perry was stationed at Fort Cavazos, then known as Fort Hood, at the time of the shooting. According to authorities, he was working a side gig as a ride-share driver that night, when he turned onto a downtown street and was met with a crowd of protesters.

Witnesses at the scene told Austin police investigators that Perry began honking his horn at the group. Foster approached Perry’s vehicle as other protesters began hitting the car.

Perry, who told police that Foster aimed the rifle at him, opened fire, striking Foster multiple times. Foster died a short time later at Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas.

Video streamed live on Facebook captured some of the chaos at the scene, according to the AP.

While the defense argued at trial that Perry acted in self-defense when he shot Foster, prosecutors argued that he could have driven away from the scene instead of firing his handgun.

Witnesses who were present during the fatal encounter testified that Foster never raised his rifle, the AP reported.

According to parole board members, their decision came after a “thorough examination of the amassed information” on the case.

“The members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles delved into the intricacies of Perry’s case,” the board said in a statement. “The investigative efforts encompassed a meticulous review of pertinent documents, from police reports to court records, witness statements and interviews with individuals linked to the case.”

Abbott had indicated before Perry’s conviction that he would seek a pardon if jurors convicted the military veteran. Perry was convicted of murder April 7, 2023, and the governor requested the board review the case the next day.

“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.

Foster’s mother, Sheila Foster, told CBS Austin in February that the governor’s pardon request negated any peace or justice the family had received through Perry’s conviction.

“I am baffled, actually,” Sheila Foster said. “I just cannot believe this is my life and this is what’s happening.”

Foster said she was overwhelmed by anxiety and her family could not move on from the grief following her son’s killing.

“I would absolutely love to get some closure and some justice in this deal,” she said.