Monday, July 15, 2024

Texas governor pardons Uber driver Daniel Perry convicted of murdering BLM protester

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott has pardoned an Uber driver who was convicted of murdering a Black Lives Matter protestor in Austin in the summer of 2020.

Daniel Perry shot and killed Garrett Foster, who was also armed, at a time when racial justice protests were sweeping America following the murder of George Floyd. In April 2023, Perry was convicted of murder.

On Thursday afternoon, just over one year on from his conviction, Mr Abbott announced that he had pardoned the former US Army sergeant following a unanimous recommendation from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

“The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles conducted an exhaustive review of U.S. Army Sergeant Daniel Perry’s personal history and the facts surrounding the July 2020 incident and recommended a Full Pardon and Restoration of Full Civil Rights of Citizenship,” Mr Abbott said in a statement.

“Among the voluminous files reviewed by the Board, they considered information provided by the Travis County District Attorney, the full investigative report on Daniel Perry, plus a review of all the testimony provided at trial.

“I thank the Board for its thorough investigation, and I approve their pardon recommendation.”

Perry was released from the Mac Stringfellow Unit in Rosharon soon after the announcement was made.

Even when his conviction and sentence were handed down, Mr Abbott had made his plans to pardon Perry.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott holds a press conference at Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, on February 4, 2024 (AFP via Getty Images)

He said at the time that Texas had “one of the strongest ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws of self-defence that cannot be nullified by a jury or a progressive District Attorney.”

On Thursday, Foster’s partner Whitney Mitchell told The Austin American Statesman that she was heartbroken by the governor’s decision.

“I loved Garrett Foster. I thought we were going to grow old together,” Mitchell said in a statement through her attorney Angelica Cogliano.

“He was the love of my life. He still is. I am heartbroken by this lawlessness. Governor Abbott has shown that to him, only certain lives matter. He has made us all less safe.

“With this pardon, the Governor has desecrated the life of a murdered Texan, impugned that jury’s just verdict, and declared that citizens can be killed with impunity as long as they hold political views that are different from those in power.”

On the night of 25 July 2020 – a summer filled with racial justice protests – Perry was working as an Uber driver in Austin.

Gov. Abbott requests possible pardon for Daniel Perry

Perry, who admitted he had been texting and driving distractedly, ran a red light and drove into the thick of a crowd of Black Lives Matter demonstrators, nearly hitting Whitney Mitchell, a quadruple amputee.

Among the crowd was Mitchell’s husband, 28-year-old Air Force veteran Foster, who was openly and legally carrying an AK-47 rifle.

Witnesses said Foster, who was white, gestured with his gun for the Uber driver to “move on.”

According to video shown to the jury, Perry told police in a later interview: “I believe he was going to aim at me. I didn’t want to give him a chance to aim at me.”

Shaky video of the moment, captured by journalist Hiram Gilberto, shows the car in a crowd of people.

Honking is heard before a voice nearby says: “Everybody back up.”

Perry then opens fire with his .357 revolver, shooting Foster dead as protesters scream and scatter.

Perry fled the scene, then reported the incident to police, claiming he acted in self-defence after a weapon was pointed at him, according to the Texas Tribune.

He was later convicted of murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Daniel Perry pictured in mug shot by Austin Police Department in 2020 (Austin Police Department)

In Thursday’s proclamation, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles concluded that Perry’s car had been “surrounded by aggressive protestors who rushed to obstruct, strike, pound, smash, and kick his vehicle” on Congress Avenue in Austin.

Foster had approached Perry’s vehicle “within 18 inches” and waved the firearm in his direction, the board said, finding that he was justified in firing his gun “to eliminate a perceived threat to his safety”.

The proclamation criticised Travis County District Attorney José Garza for not upholding this right to self defense, instead prioritising “reducing access to guns”.

Thursday’s announcement means that Perry receives a full pardon and “restoration of full civil rights”.

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