Army sergeant found guilty in killing of Air Force veteran
Stars and Stripes April 7, 2023
AUSTIN, Texas — A jury on Friday found Army Sgt. Daniel Perry guilty of murder for shooting and killing an Air Force veteran three years ago during a Black Lives Matter protest in the city, Perry’s attorney confirmed.
The two-week trial ended after a jury of eight women and four men deliberated for more than 15 hours. They found Perry not guilty on a second charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Perry faces up to life in prison. Judge Cliff Brown as of Friday had not yet scheduled a sentencing hearing.
Perry, 35, was assigned to Fort Hood and had been driving the 70 miles south to Austin to work a second job with a rideshare company when he encountered protesters in the city’s downtown at about 9:51 p.m. on July 25, 2020. Garrett Foster, an Air Force veteran, 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 the 28-year-old Foster.
Six seconds elapsed between the time that Perry turned his car onto Congress Avenue and he fired the .357 Magnum handgun that he kept between the driver’s seat and the center console of his car, the evidence showed during the trial.
Guillermo Gonzalez, a Travis County prosecutor, told jurors in his opening statements last week that the evidence would “show the defendant intentionally drove into the protesters.”
“It was Perry who engaged in unlawful use of force,” Gonzalez said.
Evidence included videos of Perry describing the incident to Austin police officers — first, when he called 911 and met with officers immediately after the shooting, and about an hour later when he gave a voluntary statement at police headquarters. He also voluntarily provided his cellphone and car to be searched.
Prosecutors presented jurors with Perry’s social media postings and conversations that he had with others expressing negative opinions about the social justice protests that occurred in the summer of 2020.
Clint Broden, Perry’s defense attorney, said in his opening statement that the soldier had accidentally driven into the protesters because he was texting while driving. When confronted by Foster holding his assault rifle, Perry had only two-tenths of a second to react.
Broden argued it was Foster who had gone downtown prepared for combat with 130 rounds of ammunition, a metal baton and a knife.
Foster, who served in the Air Force from June 2011 until May 2013, had attended the protests almost daily with his wife, Whitney Mitchell, and his roommate. Police officers warned Foster that the way he carried his assault rifle in a front holster was dangerous, according to Perry’s defense team.
Perry, who has since been reassigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 11th Airborne Division at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, sobbed after hearing the guilty verdict, according to reports from news outlets in the courtroom.
“Our hearts continue to break for the Foster family. We hope this verdict brings closure and peace to the victim’s family,” Travis County District Attorney José Garza said.