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A Travis County grand jury on Thursday indicted Army Sgt. Daniel Perry on charges of murder, aggravated assault and deadly conduct after he shot and killed Garrett Foster, an armed protester in downtown Austin last year.
The former Fort Hood soldier turned himself into the Travis County Jail and was shortly released after around 2:30 p.m. Thursday on a combined $300,000 bond, according to Kristen Dark, a spokesperson for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office.
On July 25, Perry stopped his car and honked at people protesting police brutality while they walked through the street, blocks from the state Capitol. Seconds later, he drove his car into the crowd, police said.
Foster, who was a 28-year-old white man and Air Force veteran, had been seen openly carrying an AK-47 rifle at the time, which is legal. There are conflicting accounts as to whether Foster raised the rifle to the driver first — but seconds later Perry, who was also legally armed, shot and killed Foster and fled the area, police said. He called the police and reported what happened, claiming he shot in self defense after Foster aimed his weapon at him. Perry is also a white man.
The case and Foster’s death sparked outrage and debates over protester safety, the open carrying of firearms and the state’s “stand your ground” law, which allows people to use deadly force against someone else if they feel they are in danger.
If Perry goes to trial, a conviction could hinge on which man a jury determines made a threat first.
Clint Broden, a Dallas-based attorney for Perry, expressed disappointment at the indictment but repeated his client’s claim of self defense and said he was confident that Perry would be acquitted.
“It is important to note that the standard of proof required for an indictment is significantly less than the standard of proof required for a conviction,” he said.
Broden said the prosecutors in the Travis County District Attorney’s office refused to allow Perry’s attorney to present written evidence to the jury.
“This refusal is unusual in Texas and begs the question of why the District Attorney’s Office would not allow this,” Broden said. “We understand the political motivations of the District Attorney, however, when this case is presented to a jury at trial and the jury gets to hear all the evidence instead of a one-sided presentation, we have every confidence that Sgt. Perry will be acquitted.”
The district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment. District Attorney José Garza, who ran on a platform of police accountability during his campaign, told reporters Thursday the jury was presented with the “most accurate possible set of facts.”
“In this case, we were particularly presented with an extensive collection of evidence for the grand jury’s consideration,” Garza said.
Last year, two witnesses of the shooting told the Texas Tribune they believed Perry’s behavior was threatening and intentional.
“He was driving into a crowd of protesters. No way that that was just like a traffic thing. There’s 100 people in front of you, you don’t drive into them,” said James Sasinowski, one of the protesters. “He intentionally, aggressively accelerated into a crowd of people.”
Previously, Perry had tweeted remarks about seeking retribution against demonstrators on a now deleted Twitter account — which his legal team says were taken out of context.
In one tweet, Perry responded to a post from former President Donald Trump saying that “protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes” protesting in Oklahoma would face “a much different scene” than protesters in New York or Minneapolis.
Perry’s tweet read, “Send them to Texas we will show them why we say don’t mess with Texas.”