Coalition Of Attorney Generals Calling For DOJ Investigation Into Murder Of BLM Protester Garrett Foster Following Texas Pardon

By Letitia James

Photos: YouTube Screenshots

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James and a coalition of 13 attorneys general today urged the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to open a civil rights investigation into the July 2020 murder of Garrett Foster, who was protesting racial injustice when he was shot and killed by Daniel Perry in Austin, Texas. A jury found Mr. Perry guilty of murder in April 2023, but earlier this month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott pardoned Mr. Perry, citing Texas’ so-called “Stand Your Ground” law, which provides an incredibly broad self-defense justification for criminal conduct. In a letter to DOJ, Attorney General James and the coalition urge DOJ to open an investigation into Mr. Perry’s killing of Mr. Foster, specifically into whether Mr. Perry violated federal criminal civil rights laws when he murdered Mr. Foster.

“Garrett Foster was exercising his constitutional right to protest when he was murdered by Daniel Perry,” said Attorney General James. “The facts of this case were egregious, and so too is the reality that a state would so blatantly condone hateful, murderous conduct. When states fail to protect their residents from such violations of our civil rights, it’s imperative that DOJ steps in and ensures that justice is served. We urge DOJ to investigate this incident and demonstrate that this will not be tolerated in America.” 

In June 2020, Mr. Foster was participating in a protest against racial injustice in Austin when Mr. Perry drove his car into a crowd of protesters. Mr. Foster approached Mr. Perry’s car in an attempt to protect his fellow protesters, prompting Mr. Perry to open fire, killing Mr. Foster. During his trial, Mr. Perry claimed self-defense. Mr. Foster had been legally carrying a firearm, but Mr. Perry’s activity prior to the shooting indicated an intent to disrupt peaceful protesters.

Mr. Perry’s internet history included evidence that he knew what he was planning to do was wrong and that he intended to cover up his crime. For example, he searched whether the federal government had the ballistics information of every firearm lawfully sold. He sent multiple texts before he left for the protests, telling friends that he was considering traveling to another city to “shoot looters,” and “might have to kill a few people on [his] way to work.” He googled the locations of local protests and targeted those areas, and also sent and shared racist and Islamophobic messages and memes advocating vigilante murder. A jury of Mr. Perry’s peers found him guilty of murder.

Less than 24 hours after Mr. Perry was convicted in 2023, Governor Abbott announced his intent to pardon him on social media. In the year that followed, multiple other elected officials and political leaders who opposed racial justice protests joined the call for Mr. Perry to be pardoned. The coalition of attorneys general is concerned that in pardoning Mr. Perry, Governor Abbott is signaling that “stand your ground” laws will protect vigilantes who seek out racial justice protests just to shoot and kill protesters. This is particularly troubling given growing evidence that these laws are often associated with increased homicide rates.

Though Mr. Perry has been pardoned in Texas, the law does not shield him from federal prosecution for killing Mr. Foster to prevent him from exercising his constitutional right to peacefully protest. The coalition argues that DOJ has historically used federal civil rights laws to prosecute acts of hate, especially when states refuse or fail to hold people accountable for violating their fellow Americans’ civil rights.

Joining Attorney General James in sending this letter to DOJ are the attorneys general of Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.

This matter is being handled for New York by Special Counsel Molly Thomas-Jensen and Assistant Attorney General Martha Grieco of the Executive Division. The Executive Division is overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

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