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Texas governor pardons ex-Army sergeant convicted of killing Black Lives Matter protester

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a full pardon on Thursday for a former U.S. Army sergeant who was convicted of murder for fatally shooting an armed protester during nationwide protests against police violence and racial injustice in 2020.

Abbott announced the pardon shortly after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles announced a unanimous recommendation to pardon Daniel Perry and restore his firearms rights.

Perry had been serving a 25-year sentence in state prison since his 2023 conviction for the 2023 killing of Garrett Foster and was released shortly after being pardoned, a prison spokeswoman said.

Perry, a white man, was working as a rideshare driver when his car drove into a protest in Austin. Prosecutors said he was able to escape the confrontation with Foster, a white Air Force veteran who, according to testimony, never raised his weapon.

A jury convicted Perry of murder, but Abbott called it a case of self-defense.

“Texas has one of the strictest ‘Stand Your Ground’ self-defense laws that cannot be overturned by a jury or a progressive district attorney,” Abbott said.

As a Republican in his third term, Abbott has typically issued pardons only for minor offenses and has notably avoided a posthumous pardon recommendation George Floyd for a 2004 drug bust in Houston. It was Floyd’s killing by a white police officer in Minneapolis in 2020 that sparked nationwide demonstrations.

Abbott ordered the panel to review Perry’s case shortly after the trial and said he would sign a pardon if recommended. Under Texas law, the governor cannot issue a pardon without a recommendation from the board appointed by the governor.

Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza called the pardon a “mockery of our legal system.”

“The board and the governor have put politics above justice,” Garza said. “You should be ashamed of yourself. “Your actions violate the law and demonstrate that there are two classes of people in this state, some lives matter and others do not.”

Abbott’s call for a review of Perry’s case followed pressure from the former Fox News star Tucker Carlsonwho went on national television calling on the governor to intervene after the sergeant was convicted in court in April 2023. Perry was convicted after prosecutors used his social media history and text messages to portray him as a racist who might commit violence again.

The sergeant’s defense attorneys argued that Foster actually raised the rifle and that Perry had no choice but to fire. Perry did not take the stand and the jury deliberated for two days before finding him guilty.

Perry’s lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Foster’s girlfriend, Whitney Mitchell, was with Foster when he was killed. She called the pardon an act of “lawlessness.”

“With this pardon, the governor has desecrated the life of a murdered Texan and U.S. Air Force veteran and called into question the fair verdict of this jury. “He has stated that Texans who hold political views different from those of him and those in power can be killed with impunity in this state,” Mitchell said.

The shooting sparked heated debate in 2020 amid demonstrations sparked by Floyd’s death, and Perry’s conviction three years later sparked outrage among prominent conservatives.

Before announcing the verdict in the case, Carlson aired a program in which he called the shooting an act of self-defense and criticized Abbott for not appearing on his show. The next day, Abbott said he believed Perry should not be punished and called on the Texas Parole Board to expedite a review of the conviction.

After the verdict, but before Perry was sentenced, the court unsealed dozens of pages of text messages and social media posts that showed he held hostile views of the Black Lives Matter protests. In a comment on Facebook a month before the shooting, Perry wrote, “It’s official that I’m a racist because I don’t agree with people acting like animals at the zoo.”

Perry served in the Army for more than a decade. At trial, a forensic psychologist testified that he believed Perry suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder because of his deployment to Afghanistan and because he was bullied as a child. At the time of the shooting, Perry was stationed at Fort Cavazos and then at Fort Hood, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Austin.

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This story has been updated to correct that Perry’s sentencing occurred in 2023, not 2022.

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