Texas’s pardon of a man who killed a Black Lives Matter protester is chilling | Tayo Bero

This month, the Texas state parole board unanimously recommended the pardon and release of convicted killer and former US army sergeant Daniel Perry, along with the restoration of his firearm rights. Perry had been working as an Uber driver in July 2020 when he shot and killed Garrett Foster, a white man who was attending a Black Lives Matter protest with his Black fiancee. Perry was later indicted for murder, tried, convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison by an Austin jury.

Almost a year from the date of his sentencing, Perry’s pardon was granted by Texas governor Greg Abbott, and he now walks free. As terrifying as the initial incident was, this pardon sends a chilling message: that politically motivated killing is OK, and that politicians are more focused on pandering to political pressure than protecting people’s lives.

During Perry’s trial, it emerged that in the weeks before he killed Foster, he had shared white-supremacist memes and talked about how he “might have to kill a few people” who were demonstrating outside his house in 2020. He also compared the Black Lives Matter movement to “a zoo full of monkeys that are freaking out flinging their shit”. And days into nationwide protests sparked by George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer, Perry sent a text message saying: “I might go to Dallas to shoot looters.”

Perry described shooting Foster as an act of self-defense. Yet according to trial testimony about the day Foster died, Perry had seen the predominantly Black group of protesters gathered across the street from him, ran a red light and drove his car right into the middle of the protest. When Foster – who was legally carrying a firearm but had not, according to some eyewitnesses, threatened Perry – approached Perry’s car, he shot him dead and sped away.

In rehashing this horrendous incident, the question on my mind is: how do you justify “pardoning” a person like this? Condemning Perry’s release isn’t about believing in carcerality or wanting to keep people in prisons, mind you; it’s about how we get to this point as a society, whom we grant permission to kill, and how we treat the people involved in a tragedy like this in its aftermath.

Abbott – who rarely issues pardons, and has generally only pardoned low-level, nonviolent offenders – had faced pressure from conservative media figures to grant Perry one. Rightwing pundits like former Fox News host Tucker Carlson and even Texas GOP chair Matt Rinaldi squeezed him publicly about Perry’s conviction. It doesn’t seem like Abbott needed much convincing, though, seeing as he directed the parole board to review Perry’s case just one day after he was convicted.

There’s also the question of how we got here. Foster’s death and his killer’s subsequent pardon are the direct result of a government that’s more beholden to wealthy gun lobbyists than concerned with commonsense legislation that literally saves lives. Foster’s death was, in part, the result of a tragic meeting of Texas’s notoriously loose stand-your-ground self-defense laws, which Perry’s supporters claim he was upholding when he shot Foster, and the state’s “open carry” laws, which Foster was legally exercising when he had his rifle slung over his shoulder during the protest.

Alan Bean, the executive director of the Texas-based civil rights advocacy group Friends of Justice, summed up the implications of Perry’s case succinctly.

“If one guy with a gun feels threatened by another guy with a gun, murder is permissible. If both men felt threatened, the resulting tragedy would technically be ruled a no-fault double-homicide,” he wrote after news of the pardon went public.

Even Texas police aren’t blind to the ways that open-carry laws are exceptionally dangerous and nonsensical. “We were completely opposed to ‘license to carry’ because anytime there’s more guns, there’s a problem,” Ray Hunt, executive director of the Houston police officers’ union, said back in 2021.

If there was any doubt that Abbott doesn’t care how problematic these laws are, even after what happened to Foster, consider that he used his pardon announcement to reaffirm that “Texas has one of the strongest ‘stand your ground’ laws of self-defense that cannot be nullified by a jury or a progressive district attorney”.

These are scary words to hear from your elected official after a tragedy that could have been avoided with better gun laws. Abbott continues to signal to gun-toting rightwingers that they can go around murdering people they don’t agree with, and that they will have the full force of the law to back them up.

Foster’s mother, Sheila, spoke to the New York Times after the pardon, and her words are haunting in their truth. “It doesn’t make sense,” she said over the phone. “It seems like this is some kind of a political circus and it’s costing me my life.”

  • Tayo Bero is a Guardian US columnist

Source: US Politics -


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