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Ex-Army sergeant, convicted of killing Black Lives Matter protester, is pardoned

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A Texas man walked out of prison after being convicted of murdering a Black Lives Matter protester back in 2020. Governor Greg Abbott pardoned Daniel Perry. Andrew Weber from our member station KUT in Austin has been following the story and joins us now. Andrew, good morning.

ANDREW WEBER, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: I want people to know that you covered some of the protests back in 2020 that led up to this shooting. So what were they like?

WEBER: I did, yes, sir. It was - you know, it was July 2020. It was in the wake of George Floyd's murder, and there were a lot of those protests that summer around the police headquarters here in downtown Austin and around the state Capitol. And Garrett Foster was at a lot of those protests with his fiancee. She uses a wheelchair, and Foster sort of helped her get around protests. And every time I saw him, he was armed with a rifle, and he wore military fatigues. He was an Air Force veteran. And he was legally carrying that gun.

And that July, he was walking down Congress Avenue downtown. He got into an altercation with Daniel Perry. And he was driving for Uber at the time, and he was also legally armed. And after that altercation, Perry shot Foster multiple times. He was later indicted by a grand jury here in Austin and convicted of murder.

INSKEEP: OK, and I remember our coverage of the shooting at that time. How did Governor Abbott then get involved in this case?

WEBER: Well, the case caught the attention of a lot of conservative media outlets, kind of like the case of Kyle Rittenhouse in Wisconsin. And it caught the attention of former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Abbott appeared on that show, and he vowed to pardon Perry. And yesterday, a board - with all of its members appointed by Abbott - recommended that, and so Abbott pardoned him and defended the state's stand-your-ground laws. He said that - he also kind of took a swipe at the district attorney here for prosecuting the case, saying that the laws can't be nullified by a jury or a progressive district attorney. And Perry, within hours, was released from prison.

INSKEEP: OK. You mentioned stand-your-ground laws. Those are laws under which you can say, I feel afraid, and therefore, I can shoot. I can defend myself. And that's Perry's story - I defended myself. Is there any case that Foster, the man who was shot, did anything to get shot?

WEBER: Well, I mean, he was carrying a gun in Texas at a protest that was being sort of - it was a peaceful protest being, you know, monitored by Austin police, so that could be argued. But Perry's attorneys would argue that he felt threatened and that he had a right to defend himself. But Foster was legally carrying a gun. Perry was legally carrying a gun. And, you know, it was one of those things where in the trial, that was brought up, but the district attorney argued that Perry had a history of making racist comments in the lead-up to this shooting. He made racist slurs on social media through a messenger app, and he said - and this is a quote - he said, "I might have to go kill a few people on my way to work. They're rioting outside my apartment complex."

INSKEEP: What's been the response to this pardon now from Foster's family and his supporters?

WEBER: The district attorney said that this was - again, quoting - "a mockery of our justice system." His fiancee said that the governor's pardon kind of set a dangerous precedent because, you know, her fiance didn't agree with the governor's politics, and because of that, she said, quote, "Texans who hold political views that are different from Abbott's can be killed in the state with impunity."

INSKEEP: Can I just ask - now that Perry has been pardoned, does he face any other legal issues?

WEBER: He can get his record expunged. He can get his military service reinstated, and he can now legally carry a gun.

INSKEEP: That's reporter Andrew Weber with KUT in Austin. Thanks so much for the update. Really appreciate it.

WEBER: Yes, sir. Appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Andrew Weber is a freelance reporter and associate editor for KUT News. A graduate of St. Edward's University with a degree in English, Andrew has previously interned with The Texas Tribune, The Austin American-Statesman and KOOP Radio.