Trial of Army sergeant accused of killing Air Force veteran begins in Texas
Stars and Stripes March 27, 2023
AUSTIN, Texas — Jury selection began Monday for the trial of an Army sergeant charged with murder in the death of an Air Force veteran who he said he shot in self-defense during a Black Lives Matter protest nearly three years ago.
Sgt. Daniel Perry, 35, was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, and had a second job working for a rideshare company when he encountered protesters in downtown Austin at about 9:51 p.m. on July 25, 2020. Garrett Foster was among the protesters and legally carrying an AK-47-type assault rifle, according to the Austin Police Department. Perry told police that he saw Foster point the weapon at him, so he fired his own gun five times, killing Foster, 28.
Perry is also charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and deadly conduct, according to the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.
The encounter, which was recorded by other people at the scene and posted online, lasted seconds. Perry drove his vehicle from Fourth Street onto Congress Avenue, which was partially barricaded with orange cones. Protesters began to surround his vehicle and strike the outside.
Foster can be seen approaching the driver-side window with his rifle held in front of him, then gunshots erupt and the crowd scatters. Police said a third person on the scene, who was also carrying a weapon, fired at Perry’s vehicle as he drove away.
Multiple people called 911, including Perry, who said he had shot someone who pointed a rifle at him. He was instructed to pull over and wait for police, which he did, according to a news release issued by Austin police two days after the shooting.
Perry was interviewed and released that night, police said.
Nearly one year later a Travis County grand jury indicted Perry for murder, District Attorney José Garza said during a July 1, 2021, news conference. Prosecutors presented more than 150 evidence exhibits and testimony from 22 witnesses, he said.
“Our heart goes out to all those impacted by this immeasurable loss, in particular Mr. Foster's family and friends,” Garza said. “We take our responsibility to present all of the evidence in any given case to a grand jury very seriously and in this case, in particular, we've presented an extensive collection of evidence for the grand jury's consideration.”
Doug O’Connell, a retired Army colonel and defense attorney for Perry, said Foster’s death is a tragedy but the soldier is being prosecuted for “what is clearly a case of legal self-defense.”
“Just because you have the right to carry an assault rifle around downtown Austin, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. And if you point the rifle at someone, you’re responsible for everything that happens next," O’Connell said. “Daniel is anxious to testify and tell his side of the story. Whether he actually takes the stand will depend on the quality of the government’s evidence.”
Perry has since been reassigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 11th Airborne Division at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, the Army said.
Foster enlisted in the Air Force as a refueler and bomber aircraft maintainer in June 2011, according to the Air Force Personnel Center. He separated as an airman first class assigned to Minot Air Force Base, N.D., in May 2013.