AUSTIN, TX – A Black Lives Matter protest in the streets of downtown Austin turned violent when, Garrett Foster, who was armed with an AK-47, was killed by a driver who shot and killed him while being confronted by protesters.
According to police and witnesses, shortly before 10 p.m. local time, Black Lives Matter protesters were marching through the intersection of Fourth Street and Congress Avenue when a motorist honked their horn and then turned aggressively through the intersection — while protesters were still in it — and abruptly stopped.
In a livestreamed video shot by independent journalist Hiram Gilberto Garcia, some of the protesters can be seen converging on the vehicle, at which point a man can be heard shouting:
“Everybody back up!”
Clip of the shooting at the protest in Austin Texas from Hiram Gilberto on FB pic.twitter.com/VFbzqfoSff
— Anthony Martino (@anthonyfartino) July 26, 2020
In another video, the car is seen driving away following the gun shots.
AUSTIN: Another angle of the shooting confirms exactly what witnesses described.
The car is stopped at the light, away from the march. The driver deliberately and accelerates and corners into the marchers.
The marchers did not surround the car; THE DRIVER DROVE INTO THE CROWD. pic.twitter.com/VVwTXzZqPE
— Chad Loder (@chadloder) July 26, 2020
Garrett Foster, a 28-year-old man marching in the protest with his disabled fiancée, Whitney Mitchell, was laying on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds in the pool of blood.
Foster was carrying an AK-47 that fellow protesters say he often did as he marched. Foster and his fiancée were regular attendants at the ongoing protests in the city.
CPR was performed on scene unsuccessfully as Foster was rushed to Dell Seton Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Foster was interviewed on camera shortly before the incident. He said he started carrying the AK-47 recently because:
“My roommate got arrested and they stopped letting us march anywhere, so I started carrying.”
He also said he didn’t think he would have to use it:
“If I use it against the cops, I’m dead.
“I think all the people that hate us and want to say shit to us are too big of pussies to stop and actually do anything about it.”
I didn't know Garrett Foster and I wish he were alive. But the left is portraying him as a hero who just wanted justice and was peacefully marching. He was interviewed earlier in the night and asked why he was carrying and AK47.
He was carrying for a reason.
h/t @stillgray pic.twitter.com/qp9OJG8PbN
— Joe Pags Pagliarulo (@JoeTalkShow) July 26, 2020
Witnesses on scene have stated that Foster kept his rifle pointed at the ground as he approached the vehicle, and that he was not the only protester carrying a firearm during the march. They say that the driver pointed a handgun through the car window and fired specifically at Foster.
Witness Michael Capochiano told the New York Times that Foster “was not aiming the gun or doing anything aggressive with the gun”:
“He was not holding it in an aggressive manner. I’m not sure if there was much of an exchange of words. It wasn’t like there was any sort of verbal altercations. He wasn’t charging at the car. He was just walking over there.”
Capochiano said that he did not see the driver fire at anyone other than Foster. He also said that when the driver originally surged through the intersection:
“You could hear the wheels squealing from hitting the accelerator so fast … I’m a little surprised that nobody got hit.”
Today, I talked to the mothers of Garrett Foster, the man shot and killed last night at the protest in Austin, and his fiancee Whitney Mitchell.
— Lauren McGaughy 🌟 (@lmcgaughy) July 26, 2020
The driver of the vehicle tells a different story, however. Austin Police say that the driver told investigators that Foster had pointed his rifle at his car.
At a press conference, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said that the driver of the car called 911 after the shooting to report that someone had pointed a gun at his vehicle and that he had fired on them.
Manley said that the first person who appeared to fire was the driver, and then a second person (not Foster) drew a handgun and opened fire on the car as it drove away.
He said that police have heard from witnesses who had “several different versions of the incident” and that detectives are reviewing the “precise actions” of everyone involved. He asked for anyone with more information or footage of the event to come forward.
Chief Manley said that the driver and the second shooter, who have both been cooperative to this point, have been released “pending further investigation.”
He did not identify either shooter and would not say why the driver had been in the area.
Chief Manley said:
“We are heartbroken over the loss of Mr. Foster last night. [The shooting] is actively being investigated … in conjunction with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.”
Foster’s sudden death has been especially traumatizing for Mitchell, her mother, Patricia Kirven, told the Dallas Morning News. The couple got engaged when they were 18, a month before an infection caused Mitchell to lose her arms and legs.
Friends of Mitchell who witnessed the incident told Kirven that Foster had jumped in front of her, fearing she was a target.
“They thought the person was aiming at her because she is a sitting duck.”
After Foster was shot, Mitchell called her mother frantically telling her he was shot. Kirven said:
“She physically is okay, but mentally she is not. ‘Inconsolable’ is the only word I can think of.”
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Last month in Austin, police were faced with more riots. Here’s Law Enforcement Today’s most recent report on that.
On Friday, June 19, 2020, protestors stormed the Austin Police Headquarters bringing down the American flag and Texas flag and proceeded to burn them in front of the station in the street.
The protestors were chanting “Fuck the police!” repeatedly.
— Bino Cadenas (@Officer_Bino) June 20, 2020
Austin Police Department Officer, Joshua Todd, was quoted in a facebook posting as saying:
“Very surreal last night, they stormed the police station but couldn’t make it inside, they took down the flags and burned them…… This country is in a very dangerous place.”
This protest and demonstration of disrespect for our American Flag and our country occurred a few days after the Austin City Council voted on a police defunding program.
According to Houston Public Media, Austin City Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison created a program to reduce the police department’s budget limiting the number of officers the department can hire.
She also requested that money from the police department be used for mental health services and to review police misconduct.
Protestors have been demanding the police department’s budget be reduced by at least $100 million. The city council members are in favor of defunding the police and have no faith in the leadership team of the Austin Police Department (APD) in “making modifications in police practices to end police violence against African Americans and other minorities”.
APD detective, Issa Kafena, and former member of Austin Mayor Steve Adler’s security detail argues that the department is understaffed, overworked, and undertrained making it exceedingly difficult to serve the Austin citizens.
Some other policies that were banned this past week are the reduction of the use of certain weapons and maneuvers by the police, such as tear gas and non-lethal ammunition during protests. This includes the use of chokeholds as noted by Council Member, Greg Casar.
APD Police Chief, Brian Manley, argues that the reduction of his force has already proved a decreased force increases crime because there is no deterrent effect. Chief Manley was quoted by PJ Media as saying:
“One of the best deterrents to crime is a visible police presence.”
Ken Cassaday, president of the Austin Police Association, agrees with Chief Manley and was quoted by the PJ Media as saying:
“The more vacancies you have, the less safe the city is. You can just look at the crime stats here recently.”
The Texas Department of Public Safety had to come in and help patrol in January due to the APD’s attrition due to retirements.
It appears the Austin Mayor, Steve Adler, is not supporting the APD at this time and the city council is even trying to get Police Chief, Brian Manley to quit because of an activist group, JUST America, demanding Chief Manley be terminated.
There is no legal justification to fire him at this point.
According to KVUE-ABC, some of the policy changes requested be to impose four amendments to APD’s General Orders:
- No control or restraint holds around the neck in dealing with suspects, inmates, or detainees. If this policy was violated the disciplinary process would take effect.
- The intentional deactivation BWCs during a critical incident would cause the officer to be suspended per the disciplinary process.
- If an officer tampers with a BWC intentionally, the officer would be transferred to the district attorney for analysis.
- APD is to inform the Austin City Council as soon as the amendments are added to the General Orders with in 24 hours. The new information will also be posted on APD’s website within 24 hours.
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