“Might Have to Kill a Few People”

During the summer of 2020, Army Sgt. Daniel Perry’s intense animosity towards BLM demonstrators who were protesting against police brutality was revealed by prosecutors, offering a more comprehensive understanding of his motive and potential premeditation. The trial for the murder of Black Lives Matter protester Garrett Foster, which is considered to be District Attorney José Garza’s most significant prosecution thus far, commenced on March 27 and has not yet yielded significant new details regarding the incident.

Perry was indicted for murder and assault by the grand jury. Upon assuming office in 2021, Garza promptly presented the case to a Travis County grand jury. Austin Police Department officers interrogated Perry and released him. Subsequently, Perry asserted that he had acted in self-defense after Foster raised his firearm and surrendered himself to the Austin police moments later. Perry discharged his weapon four times into Foster’s chest and abdomen as the driver’s side window opened. Garrett Foster, a 28-year-old Air Force veteran openly carrying an AK-47 across his torso, approached the vehicle. On Saturday, July 25, 2020, Perry, a sergeant stationed at Fort Hood and employed as a rideshare driver in Austin, deliberately accelerated his vehicle into a gathering of protesters at the intersection of Fourth Street and Congress Avenue, two months into those demonstrations.

During the trial’s third day, prosecutors presented testimony confirming Perry’s anger towards protesters, as evidenced by his social media posts and text messages. In one of his messages, he wrote to a friend in June 2020 that he might go to Dallas and shoot looters, also stating that he had thought about killing a few people while on his way to work, showing his encouragement of violence on various social media platforms.

Is it not a good shooting? Is it necessary to shoot in a situation where an event is being created after the shooting? “Are you referring to the men who hold concealed carry licenses for handguns?” He asked. Aren’t you a CDL holder too? It seemed like Perry was trying to talk down to Holcomb when he called to stand on Wednesday afternoon. Holcomb argued that shooting the protesters was legal in self-defense, to which Perry responded, “In addition, how might he get away with killing someone like that?” Two weeks before the shooting occurred, Holcomb and Perry had a chat on Facebook Messenger, where Holcomb presented a claim of self-defense. Prosecutors now speculate about what Perry might be doing.

Prior to the incident, two weeks earlier, Perry’s acquaintance Michael Holcomb cautioned him that shooting is not advisable unless it is necessary to respond to a specific situation.

After surrendering to APD officers, Perry did not exhibit any apparent premeditation. Perry asserts that he unintentionally drove into the demonstrators after making a wrong turn, as heard in his recorded 911 call played during the trial’s fourth day. Following his arrest, body-camera footage shown the following day captures Perry informing the officers that Foster had aimed his firearm at him. Perry states, “I was unaware that he would direct it towards me. I believed he was going to harm me … I have never experienced such intense fear in my entire life.”

During the initial three days of the trial, individuals who were in close proximity to Foster on that particular night contradicted this assertion – that Foster lifted the barrel of his AK-47 – repeatedly. They all recounted a similar tale: They heard screeching tires as a vehicle swiftly approached a gathering of approximately 20 demonstrators. The vehicle, which nearly hit some of the protestors, was struck and kicked. On the car’s side, Garrett Foster confidently walked up and gave an instruction to the driver. All of the witnesses strongly affirmed that Foster did not raise the barrel of his firearm. The firearm was later found with the safety still engaged and no bullet in the chamber, as confirmed by the district attorney’s chief prosecutor, Guillermo Gonzalez. Perry’s primary aspiration to avoid a conviction for murder lies in this very assertion, of course.

He sits beside his attorneys, Doug O’Connell and Clint Broden, with his face turned down, his hair closely buzzed, and wearing a dark-colored suit. Perry’s worried parents sit visibly behind him in the front row on the left side of the courtroom. As Sheila, his mother, wept, attorneys reenacted the killing and displayed pictures of her dead son’s body. The Foster family sits in the front row on the right side of the courtroom. Throughout the first week, the courtroom has been packed with young protesters and family members, including Whitney Mitchell and Foster’s fiancée. The trial is unfolding less than a mile from where Foster died.

By the sixth day of the trial, Perry is able to present his defense, allowing the prosecutors to begin presenting witnesses. Before resting, Perry surrenders to the officers and his recorded interviews are played, in which he constantly repeats and compulsively talks, cries, and apologizes. However, when he learns that Foster has died, he reacts with a panicked expression and exclaims, “I’m sorry.” But once he is told that he will be released, he regains his composure. At the end of the interviews, he is calm enough to make a lighthearted attempt at a joke, asking, “Can I keep the jumpsuit?”