After Gov. Greg Abbott pardoned Army Sgt. Daniel Perry for the shooting death of an armed protester, Democrat attorneys general from more than a dozen states are calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to open a federal criminal civil rights probe into the incident. 

In downtown Austin on July 25, 2020, Black Lives Matter protester Garrett Foster pointed an AK-47 at Perry while a group of BLM protesters surrounded Perry’s car and began to bang on it. Perry, who was stationed at Fort Hood at the time and driving for Uber to make extra income, says he honked his car horn at protesters blocking an intersection. 

During Perry’s trial, his defense team stated that Foster raised a firearm at Perry, leading Perry to use his handgun in self-defense. 

In April 2023, a Travis County jury sentenced Perry to 25 years in prison for Foster’s death. 

Nearly a year later, after an intensive investigation, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended that the governor grant Perry a full pardon and restore his Second Amendment rights. Shortly after the board’s decision, Abbott released a proclamation granting Perry’s parole. 

Two weeks after his parole was granted, Democrat attorneys general from Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. are urging U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to look into the matter.

“We write to urge the U.S. Department of Justice to open a civil rights investigation into Daniel Perry’s killing of Garrett Foster on July 25, 2020 in Austin, Texas. At the time of his murder, Garrett Foster was exercising his First Amendment right to protest, as a part of broader protests against police brutality and racial injustice in the summer of 2020,” reads the letter. 

The letter questions the validity of Texas’ “stand your ground” law—which Abbott cited as the reason for granting the pardon—saying the law could encourage vigilantes to attend such protests.

“Recently, Governor Greg Abbott granted a pardon to Perry for his conviction of murder,” the attorneys general wrote. “Mr. Foster was openly carrying a firearm at the protest—an act that is legal in Texas—and Mr. Perry claimed that he had acted in self-defense, relying on Texas’ so-called ‘stand your ground’ law. In pardoning Mr. Perry, Governor Abbott also cited to Texas’ ‘stand your ground’ law. The undersigned Attorneys General are concerned that these ‘stand your ground’ laws encourage vigilantes to attend protests armed and ready to shoot and kill those who exercise their First Amendment rights.”

The letter was led by New York Attorney General Letitia James and signed onto by 12 other state attorneys general as well as the attorney general of Washington, D.C. 

Gov. Abbott has not responded to a request for comment. 

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.