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Man who shot Air Force vet protester in Austin identified as Army sergeant

Austin Police HQ (WhisperToMe/WikiCommons)

A Dallas attorney representing the man who shot protester Garrett Foster has identified his client as Daniel Perry, an Army sergeant from North Texas who was driving for a ridesharing company just before the deadly incident Saturday.

Austin police have not confirmed Perry is the shooter.

Earlier Friday, attorney F. Clinton Broden sent an email to media outlets naming Perry as his client. Broden said Perry had just dropped a client off and was heading to wait for more clients when he encountered the group of protesters.

“Prior to arriving at the corner of Fourth Street and Congress Avenue, Sgt. Perry did not know that a demonstration was taking place,” Broden said. An individual carrying an assault rifle, now known to be Garrett Foster, quickly approached the car and then motioned with the assault rifle for Mr. Perry to lower his window. Sgt. Perry initially believed the person was associated with law enforcement and complied with the command.”

Broden said Perry fired his handgun after Foster had raised his assault rifle toward him, and “fired on the person to protect his own life.”

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But accounts of what led up to the shooting that night vary, according to the Austin Police Department.

Just before 10 p.m., witnesses told police a car turned down Congress Avenue and started honking its horn. The driver stopped in the street and Foster, who police say was carrying an AK-47-style rifle, approached the car as others began hitting it.

The driver shot at Foster from inside his vehicle. He then called police to report the shooting after driving away from the scene, police said. The driver told police he opened fire after Foster pointed his rifle at him.

Protesters dispute this account and said Foster didn’t point his gun at the driver.

Broden said Perry has been cooperative with police and expressed his sympathy toward Foster’s family, but said “that does not change facts” that his client “reasonably perceived a threat to his life.”

Attempts to reach Perry and his family were unsuccessful.

Sheila Foster, Garrett Foster’s mother, told The Dallas Morning News on Friday she was glad to know who shot her son.

“This man needs to go to jail for the rest of his life,” Foster said. “If I could have been there to take those bullets in his place I would have. My son was a better man than most and if he hadn’t been there, there’s no telling how many lives this evil man would have taken because he went there intent on hurting people,” she added.

Discussing how her son cared for his fiancee Whitney Mitchell, who is a quadruple amputee and uses a wheelchair, for ten years, Sheila Foster added: “When you can do these things like my son did, you can tell me what a bad man you think he was.”

Foster and Mitchell met in North Texas at teenagers. About two years ago they moved to Austin, where Foster was Mitchell’s caretaker and she designed and sewed clothing. The couple attended the protests against police violence for the past several weeks.

Broden said Perry is an active duty sergeant with the U.S. Army. He has served for eight years, he said, including a deployment to Afghanistan. The News has reached out to the Army to verify this information and ask whether the investigation will be turned over to the military.

The News is checking with ridesharing companies to determine whether he worked for them.

Many ridesharing companies, including Lyft and Uber, have strict policies against carrying guns while working. Broden told The News his client was not aware of these policies. Broden also acknowledged that Perry was charged with domestic violence when he was 18. Perry was not convicted, his lawyer said, but given a deferred adjudication.

In a statement Friday, the Austin Police Department Homicide Unit said it is still investigating and urges anyone with video and photos to come forward. The police added they do not “condone the publication of unconfirmed names.”

“This incident is of immense importance to our community and has generated questions that deserve answers,” APD said in a statement. “We have not released any suspect or witness information during this active investigation. This is done to minimize external influence that could obstruct witness and suspect testimony and impede future legal proceedings.”

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© 2020 The Dallas Morning News