Oct 29, 2021 - News
Killing of BLM protester upends Austin Police Department
A makeshift memorial on a bench. A poster reads "JUSTICE FOR GARRETT" and lit candles dot the pavement below.
Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

The killing of a Black Lives Matter protester last year is continuing to upend the Austin Police Department, as it faces a public reckoning over its handling of the incident.

Why it matters: The tumult highlights how a multitude of hot-button issues at the heart of the case — racial justice, police brutality and gun control — are still at the center of public discourse in 2021.

The backdrop: Army Sgt. Daniel Perry killed Garrett Foster, an Air Force veteran who was legally armed, during an altercation last summer at an Austin BLM protest.

  • APD didn't file criminal charges against Perry and referred the case to the Travis County DA's office.
  • Austin Police Association president Kenneth Casaday said in a now-deleted tweet that Foster "was looking for confrontation and he found it," per CNN.
  • Perry was indicted on charges of murder, aggravated assault and deadly conduct by a Travis County grand jury nearly a year after the shooting. He argues he fired in self-defense.

The intrigue: APD has been involved in an internal war about its handling of the case.

  • APD Det. David Fugitt accused the DA's office of witness tampering after he said he was asked to scale down his grand jury presentation to omit facts that could have helped Perry's case.
  • The Austin Chronicle also reported on a deposition in the case by Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon that highlighted tensions between APD leadership and rank-and-file.

The other side: Sheila Foster, Garrett's mother, told Axios that she believes police have protected the shooter because her son was killed during a protest against police brutality.

  • Sheila says she's been shown video of the shooting that hasn't been made public.
  • "I don't understand why the police are doing so much to protect my son's killer," Sheila said. "They need to stop doing what they're doing if they don’t like being accountable."
  • Police department officials told Axios that they “will not comment while the criminal case against Mr. Perry is ongoing."

The bottom line: The criminal cases are pending, and no trial date has been set.

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