Daniel Perry to be sentenced in Texas court for killing protester in 2020

A court in Texas began sentencing proceedings Tuesday for Daniel Perry, an Army sergeant who was convicted last month of murder in the deadly shooting of a protester in 2020. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said he wants to pardon Perry after he is sentenced. Sentencing is expected to continue Wednesday.

Perry, 35, was convicted on April 7 by a Travis County jury of murdering Garrett Foster, 28, on July 25, 2020, amid racial justice and police brutality protests in downtown Austin, Texas. 

Perry’s legal team had argued he acted in self-defense, and alleged that Foster approached Perry’s car with an AK-47 rifle. Witnesses said Foster never raised his weapon at Perry, who was stationed at nearby Fort Hood and was working for a ride-sharing company in Austin.

In video streamed live to Facebook the night of the incident, a car can be heard honking before several shots rang out and protesters started screaming and scattering. Foster had been protesting for 50 straight days alongside his girlfriend, CBS Texas reported.  

Texas Protest-Shooting
U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Perry, who was convicted of murder for fatally shooting an armed protester in 2020 during nationwide protests against police violence and racial injustice, is seen on a pool video feed as he arrives for his sentencing hearing in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, May 9, 2023.

Eric Gay / AP

Will Gov. Greg Abbott pardon Daniel Perry?

Perry potentially faces up to life in prison. But Abbott tweeted after his April 7 conviction that he would be asking the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend a pardon for Perry. Due to Texas’ law regarding pardons, Abbott said he can only act on their recommendation.

“I look forward to approving the board’s pardon recommendation as soon as it hits my desk,” Abbott wrote on April 8.

Foster’s mother, Sheila Foster, told CBS Texas that Abbott’s words “literally buckled me over. I haven’t left my house. I didn’t do anything on Easter. I’m shaking like a leaf right now. I’m sick to my stomach. I can’t eat anything, and it’s almost like all that weight was lifted in that verdict and now it feels like the biggest hammer in the world is crashing down on me.”  

Perry’s past social media posts and messages revealed

After Perry’s conviction, a Travis County district judge unsealed court records that revealed that before the murder, he searched on the internet for phrases that included “protest in austin today,” “protest in dallas today” and “protesters in seattle get shot.” The filing showed he had files on his phones that included a meme that said “IT’S A PROVEN FACT THAT CRIMINALS COMMIT LESS CRIME AFTER THEY’VE BEEN SHOT.”

Perry also messaged an acquaintance on May 31 that he was “buying more ammo” after the friend told him to be safe. In Facebook Messenger exchange on the same day, Perry wrote, “I might have to kill a few people on my way to work they are rioting outside my apartment complex.” The person asked him “can you legally do so?” to which Perry responded, “if they attack me or try to pull me out of my car then yes. If I just do it because I am driving by then no.” 

The court records also revealed a Facebook post from Perry in which he wrote, “It is official I am a racist because I do not agree with people acting like animals at the zoo. I was on the side of the protestors until the started with the looting and the violence.” 

On May 29, 2020, he messaged an acquaintance, “I might go to Dallas to shoot looters.” On May 30, 2020, when someone messaged him to “Be sympathetic! These people feel victimized and frustrated. Understand,” Perry messaged “Stupid idiots” and “This is Texas I wonder why no looters have been shot yet.” 

In a June 2, 2020, exchange, Perry said “I believe there are politicians who are just as deadly as the Clinton’s but are not out in the open like they are.” An acquaintance wrote back, “Daniel isnt worth it bro, ypu are waiting your best years your time and building a unnecessary hate, maybe you should focus on something else that is not so political because we are both in the bottom of all the bs.” After Perry said he wanted to live “like a nomad,” the acquaintance wrote “If you want to do that you need to step aside from these radical ways of thinking.” Perry responded later in the conversation, “I do not have anything to live for except the military and my cat that is how sad my life has become. I have not hanged out with anyone since covid hit.”

The court records revealed Perry messaged a friend on July 26, 2020, “I was attacked yesterday and I had to defend myself and I need to talk.”

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