AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A U.S. Army sergeant was convicted of murder for fatally shooting an armed protester in 2020 during nationwide protests against police violence and racial injustice, a Texas jury ruled Friday.
Sgt. Daniel Perry was working for a ride-sharing company in July 2020 when he turned onto a street and into a large crowd of demonstrators in downtown Austin. In video that was streamed live on Facebook, a car can be heard honking before several shots ring out and protesters begin screaming and scattering.
The 28-year-old protester, Garrett Foster, was taken to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Perry, who faces life in prison, now awaits sentencing.
“We’re happy with the verdict. We’re very sorry for his family as well. There’s no winners in this,” Stephen Foster, the victim’s father, told reporters Friday.
The jury deliberated for two days. During closing arguments, Perry’s attorneys said he had no choice but to shoot Foster as he approached Perry’s car with an AK-47 rifle, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Prosecutors said Perry could have driven away before firing his revolver.
Witnesses testified that Foster never raised his rifle at Perry, according to the newspaper. Perry, who did not testify, told police that Foster did.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, then-Police Chief Brian Manley said officers heard “two separate volleys of gunfire.” Officers made their way to the crowd, where they found Foster with multiple gunshot wounds.
Manley said the driver, who was not named at the time, called 911 and reported the shooting, and that the second round of shots was fired by protesters who witnessed the shooting.
Perry was stationed at Fort Hood, about 70 miles (112 kilometers) north of Austin. The trial comes after attempts from Perry’s team to throw out the case over the past year.
When Foster was killed, demonstrators in Austin and beyond had been marching in the streets for weeks following the police killing of George Floyd. Floyd died May 25, 2020, after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against the Black man’s neck for more than nine minutes. Floyd, who was handcuffed, repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe.
Floyd’s killing was recorded on video by a bystander and sparked worldwide protests as part of a broader reckoning over racial injustice.