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Attorney General Ellison calls for DOJ investigation into murder of Garrett Foster following Texas pardon

Garrett Foster was protesting racial injustice when he was shot and killed by Daniel Perry in July 2020; Perry was convicted in April 2023 but pardoned by Texas governor earlier this month

May 29, 2024 (SAINT PAUL) — Today, Attorney General Ellison joined a coalition of 14 attorneys general in urging 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. Earlier this month, however, Texas Governor Greg Abbott pardoned Mr. Perry, citing Texas’ so-called “Stand Your Ground” law, which provides an excessively broad justification for self-defense for criminal conduct. In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Attorney General Ellison and the coalition urge DOJ to open an investigation into whether Mr. Perry violated federal criminal civil-rights laws when he murdered Mr. Foster.

“Throughout American history, our freedom of speech and right to peaceful protest have been two of the most powerful tools used to combat injustice and oppression,” said Attorney General Ellison. “Today, I am calling on the Department of Justice to open an investigation into whether Daniel Perry killed Garrett Foster to prevent Mr. Foster from exercising his constitutional right to free speech and peaceful protest. Vigilante violence is unacceptable, particularly when that violence is used to deprive Americans of their lives and most fundamental liberties.”

On July 25, 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 indicates 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 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 on social media his intention to pardon him. In the year that followed, multiple other elected officials and political leaders who opposed racial-justice protests joined the call for Governor Abbott to pardon Mr. Perry. In the letter, Attorney General Ellison and the coalition share their concern 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.

Though Governor Abbott has pardoned Mr. Perry in Texas, Texas law does not shield Mr. Perry from federal prosecution for killing Mr. Foster to prevent him from exercising his constitutional right to protest peacefully. Attorney General Ellison and the coalition argue 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 Minnesota Attorney General Ellison in the letter to Attorney General Garland are New York Attorney General Letitia James, who led the coalition, and the attorneys general of Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Vermont.

 

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