Former Army Sgt. Daniel Perry, left, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Former Army Sgt. Daniel Perry, left, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. (Left: Austin Police Department. Right: Texas Military Department.)

AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday granted a full pardon to former Army Sgt. Daniel Perry, who was convicted last year of fatally shooting an Air Force veteran during a racial injustice protest in 2020.

Abbott’s decision came soon after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles issued its unanimous recommendation to issue a pardon.

Perry, 37, was convicted of murder on April 7, 2023, in an Austin courtroom for shooting and killing Garrett Foster on July 25, 2020. Foster, a 28-year-old Air Force veteran, was carrying an assault rifle in downtown Austin during a Black Lives Matter protest, when Perry, who was working a side job as a rideshare driver, turned his car into a group of protesters. Perry, who was also armed, said he shot Foster because Foster pointed his rifle at Perry’s car.

Perry has been held in state prison on a 25-year sentence since his conviction. He was released Thursday afternoon following Abbott’s decision, according to his attorney Doug O’Connell.

“I spoke with Daniel this afternoon. He is thrilled and elated to be free,” O’Connell said. “Daniel is also optimistic for his future. He wishes that this tragic event never happened and wishes he never had to defend himself against Mr. Foster’s unlawful actions. At the same time, Daniel recognizes that the Foster family is grieving.”

Whitney Mitchell, Foster’s partner who was with him at the protest, said Abbott’s decision makes everyone less safe.

“Daniel Perry texted his friends about plans to murder a protester he disagreed with. After a lengthy trial, with an abundance of evidence, 12 impartial Texans determined that he carried out that plan and murdered my Garrett,” Mitchell said. “With this pardon, the governor has desecrated the life of a murdered Texan and U.S. Air Force veteran and impugned that jury’s just verdict. He has declared that Texans who hold political views that are different from his — and different from those in power — can be killed in this state with impunity.”

Abbott called for the board to review Perry’s conviction less than 24 hours after the jury reached its decision. The governor said Thursday that the board conducted “an exhaustive review” of Perry’s personal history and the facts surrounding the incident.

“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. I thank the board for its thorough investigation, and I approve their pardon recommendation,” Abbott said in a statement.

José Garza, the district attorney of Travis County where Perry was tried, said Thursday that the governor’s decision sends a message to Foster’s family that his life does not matter and to the jurors who served on the trial that their service does not matter.

“The board and the governor have put their politics over justice and made a mockery of our legal system. They should be ashamed of themselves,” Garza said in a statement. “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.”

Perry was discharged from the Army on March 19, according to service officials. O’Connell said Perry received an other-than-honorable discharge, and he intends to ask the service to upgrade it to an honorable discharge.

At the time of the shooting, Perry was assigned to Fort Cavazos, about 70 miles north of Austin. Afterward, he was moved to 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 11th Airborne Division in Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

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Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.

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