Texas governor pardons man who killed Black Lives Matter protester in 2020

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas issued a full pardon on Thursday to a former US army sergeant convicted of murder for fatally shooting an armed demonstrator in 2020 during nationwide protests against police violence and racial injustice.

Abbott announced the pardon just minutes after the Texas board of pardons and paroles disclosed it had made a unanimous recommendation that Daniel Perry be pardoned and have his firearms rights restored. Perry has been held in state prison on a 25-year sentence since his conviction in 2023.

The Republican governor had previously ordered the board to review Perry’s case and said earlier that he would sign a pardon if recommended. The board, which is appointed by the governor, announced its unanimous recommendation in a message posted on the agency website, and Abbott’s pardon swiftly followed.

A jury in Austin had convicted Perry of murder in the death of 28-year-old Garrett Foster, an air force veteran who had been legally carrying an AK-47 while marching in a Black Lives Matter protest. Perry was working as a ride-share driver in July 2020, when he turned his car on to a street crowded with demonstrators and shot Foster before driving off.

The shooting was one of at least 25 killings of Americans during political protests and unrest in 2020, amid thousands of overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrations over the police killing of George Floyd. Perry’s case became a rallying point for conservatives, who called on the governor to ensure his release.

Court records released in April showed that in the weeks leading up to the murder, Perry sent racist messages about protesters, shared white supremacist memes and talked about how he “might have to kill a few people” who were demonstrating outside his house. In a 76-page filing containing Perry’s private and public communications, he compared the Black Lives Matter movement to “a zoo full of monkeys that are freaking out flinging their shit”.

Abbott’s demand for a review of Perry’s case followed pressure from the far-right former Fox News star Tucker Carlson, who on national television had urged the Republican governor to intervene after the former sergeant was convicted at trial in April 2022. While Carlson was still a top-rated host at the network, he dedicated a segment to directly challenging Abbott to appear on the show and discuss pardoning Perry – calling the case a “legal atrocity” that he blamed on progressive prosecutors. Abbott announced he was directing a review of Perry’s conviction the next day.

Carlson and rightwing groups similarly championed Kyle Rittenhouse, who in 2020 drove to a Black Lives Matter protest in Wisconsin where he shot and killed two protesters. A jury found Rittenhouse not guilty of murder after he claimed self-defense, and in recent years he has become a pro-gun advocate and minor celebrity on the conservative speaker circuit.

Abbott praised the board’s recommendation to pardon Perry, and touted Texas’s “stand your ground” self-defense laws.

Prosecutors argued at trial that Perry could have driven away without opening fire and witnesses testified that they never saw Foster raise his gun. The sergeant’s defense attorneys argued Foster, who was white, did raise the rifle and that Perry had no choice but to shoot. Perry, who is also white, did not take the witness stand and jurors deliberated for two days before finding him guilty.

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