Texas Gov. Greg Abbott pardons Daniel Perry, Army sergeant convicted of murdering protester in 2020

texas gov. greg abbott pardons daniel perry, army sergeant convicted of murdering protester in 2020

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a pardon Thursday for the Army sergeant convicted of murder last year in the fatal shooting of a protester in downtown Austin in July 2020.

Daniel Perry was found guilty by a Travis County jury last year in the murder of Garrett Foster and sentenced to 25 years in prison. At the same time, Abbott made clear that he would like to pardon Perry and asked the Board of Pardons and Paroles to consider Perry's case.

The board offered a unanimous recommendation on Thursday to pardon Perry, and Abbott signed the declaration. Perry was released from prison shortly after.

Travis County District Attorney José Garza condemned the pardon, saying the board and Abbott "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 Thursday in a statement. "They have sent a message to Garrett Foster’s family, to his partner, and to our community that his life does not matter."

He added that it also sent a message to community members who gave up their time to be on the grand jury and trial jury that their service "does not matter."

Perry encountered a group of protesters in downtown Austin on July 25, 2020, roughly 70 miles from where he was based in Fort Hood, police said. The group was demonstrating against racial injustice and police brutality in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed weeks earlier by a Minnesota police officer.

Foster was taking part in the protest and legally carrying a semiautomatic rifle when he approached the intersection where Perry was in his car. Perry shot Foster from the vehicle with a handgun.

Police said Perry told them that Foster, an Air Force veteran, had pointed the rifle at him and he acted in self-defense. Abbott argued that Perry should have been exempt from prosecution under Texas' "stand your ground" law.

Prosecutors used prior social media posts and text messages from Perry to portray him as a racist at trial, and argued he simply could have driven away without firing his weapon. Witnesses also testified that they never saw Foster raise his firearm at Perry.

Perry was convicted of murder, but acquitted of a second charge, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The governor's pardon Thursday will restore Perry's rights as if he were never convicted, including the right to own firearms.

Texas' Department of Criminal Justice confirmed Perry was released from prison following the pardon.

Clint Broden, Perry's attorney, said in a statement that the circumstances of this case have "always been tragic" but that the evidence supported Perry's account of self-defense. The lawyer accused Garza of suppressing evidence that would have supported Perry's case.

"The Board of Pardons and Paroles undertook an independent and extensive review of the case," Broden said. "In particular, it interviewed the police detective who had previously determined, after a thorough investigation, that Mr. Perry had acted in self-defense when confronted with an angry crowd and a person with an assault rifle in the low ready position."

He added that Perry and his family thank the board for its careful review.

Doha Madani

Doha Madani is a senior breaking news reporter for NBC News. Pronouns: she/her.

The Associated Press contributed.

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