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Texas governor pardons Daniel Perry, convicted of shooting and killing protester in 2020

5/16: CBS Morning News
5/16: CBS Morning News 20:34

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday pardoned Daniel Perry, an Army sergeant sentenced to 25 years in prison for shooting and killing a protester in 2020. The Republican governor issued his pardon after a unanimous recommendation by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.  

The Board also unanimously voted to recommend a full restoration of Perry's firearm rights. 

"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," Abbott said in a statement. "I thank the Board for its thorough investigation, and I approve their pardon recommendation." 

Texas law states that the governor can grant a pardon after a recommendation by the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles, whose members are appointed by the governor. 

An investigation into Perry's case began on April 8th, 2024, at the request of the governor, the parole board said in a statement. The request came one day after Perry was convicted for the murder of Garrett Foster, 28, who was protesting for racial justice and against police brutality in downtown Austin. 

Perry's attorneys said their client, a U.S. Army sergeant who was stationed at Fort Hood at the time of the shooting and working as a ride-share driver, was part of a "political prosecution" and claimed that he acted in self-defense. Foster, a U.S. Air Force veteran, was carrying an AK-47 on July 25, 2020, and Perry's lawyers argued that Foster approached their client's vehicle. 

Prosecutors said witnesses never saw Foster raise his weapon – and that Perry didn't need to fire his gun. 

Texas Protest-Shooting
Daniel Perry is seen on a pool video feed as he arrives for his sentencing hearing in Austin, Texas, on May 9, 2023. Eric Gay / AP

Prosecutors also presented social media posts and messages that they said showed Perry's state of mind before the shooting. He had searched for phrases including "protest in austin today," "protest in dallas today" and "protesters in seattle get shot."

Members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles "delved into the intricacies of Perry's case" before arriving at their decision, the board said in a statement. "The investigation's efforts encompassed a meticulous review of relevant documents, from police reports to court records, witness statements, and interviews with individuals linked to the case." 

Perry's attorney Doug O'Connell on Thursday thanked the governor in a statement to CBS News, saying the pardon corrected "the courtroom travesty which occurred over a year ago and represents true justice in this case." He said that Perry is "thrilled and elated to be free," and that he also wished "this tragic event never happened" and he "never had to defend himself against Mr. Foster's unlawful actions." 

O'Connell also noted that Perry recognizes "that the Foster family is grieving."

Whitney Mitchell, who was Foster's girlfriend and with him when he was killed, said in a statement to CBS News, "I loved Garrett Foster. I thought we were going to grow old together. He was the love of my life. He still is." She added, "With this pardon, the Governor has desecrated the life of a murdered Texan and US Air Force veteran."

Travis County District Attorney José Garza, whose office oversaw the case, ensured that the board allotted time for prosecutors and Foster's family to make presentations before they issued their recommendations. In a statement signaling his disappointment, Garza said the recent actions of the Governor and Board "have put their politics over justice and made a mockery of our legal system." 

"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," Garza said.

—Caroline Linton contributed reporting.

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