Unsealed evidence shows racist comments, threats of violence made by Daniel Perry before killing of Austin protester

Daniel Perry and his family walk into a Travis County courtroom on Mar. 23. Perry was convicted in the murder of protester Garrett Foster during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in Austin. (Aaron E. Martinez/Austin American-Statesman Via Reuters, Aaron E. Martinez/Austin American-Statesman Via Reuters)

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Editor’s note: This story contains graphic descriptions of violence.

Daniel Perry, whom Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has pledged to pardon for the murder of an Austin protester, often made racist comments and regularly made clear his desire to kill protesters in the months leading up to Garrett Foster’s death, according to social media posts and texts contained in newly unsealed court documents.

On May 29, 2020, days after George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer prompted nationwide protests, Perry sent a text message saying, “I might go to Dallas to shoot looters.”

Two days later, according to the records, Perry said in a Facebook message that when he is in Dallas, “no protestors go near me or my car.”

“Can you catch me a negro daddy,” the other man replied.

“That is what I am hoping,” Perry said.

[With tweet about a pardon, Gov. Greg Abbott injects politics into Texas’ criminal justice system]

In June, Perry sent text messages from an unknown area detailing bars closing and “the blacks … gathering up in a group I think something is about to happen.”

“I wonder if they will let my cut the ears off of people who’s decided to commit suicide by me,” he added.

The court records, released Thursday, contain evidence pulled from Perry’s phone records and social media accounts. Prosecutors had filed the sealed 82-page document in March, but much of it was not brought before jurors. Information depicting a defendant’s character is often not allowed to be introduced while a jury weighs guilt versus innocence, but becomes relevant in a sentencing hearing.

The U.S. Army sergeant also sent racist and anti-Muslim messages before and after Floyd’s death. In April 2020, he sent a meme, which included a photo of a woman holding her child’s head under water in the bath, with the text, “WHEN YOUR DAUGHTERS FIRST CRUSH IS A LITTLE NEGRO BOY,” according to the state’s filing.

A year earlier, he messaged someone on Facebook looking for weekend work for active-duty military.

“To bad we can’t get paid for hunting Muslims in Europe,” he said.

Perry’s defense attorney Clint Broden declined to comment on the newly released court documents.

Perry, who is white, was convicted last week in Travis County in the shooting death of Foster in July 2020. Perry drove his car into a group of protesters, including Foster, a white Air Force veteran. Foster was carrying an AK-47, a legal act in Texas. Perry’s attorneys said at trial Foster raised his rifle, prompting Perry to shoot Foster five times through his car window with his handgun. Witnesses said Foster did not raise his rifle.

The case has become the center of a political firestorm, entrenched in the dangerously divisive rhetoric that often pits police supporters against racial justice advocates. Conservative politicians have rallied to Perry’s side, saying the act was purely self-defense in the face of dangerous protests. They’ve faulted the progressive prosecutor for pursuing the case.

Less than a day after the conviction, Abbott took the unprecedented step of declaring his intent to pardon Perry for the murder, requesting the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles hand him the legally required recommendation as soon as possible.

“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,” Abbott’s Twitter post said, referring to Travis County District Attorney José Garza. “I look forward to approving the Board’s pardon recommendation as soon as it hits my desk.”

When asked if the newly revealed evidence affected the governor’s decision for a pardon recommendation, Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze said “all pertinent information is for the Board of Pardons and Paroles to consider, as this is part of the review process required by the Texas Constitution.”

Perry has not yet been sentenced. He faces between five years or life in prison — unless the parole board and Abbott intervene. The trial court judge will impose his sentence, not a jury, according to Broden.

On Friday, Garza reiterated that his office “continues to maintain that the Board of Pardons and Paroles should consider the entirety of the trial record prior to issuing a final recommendation to the governor.”

“This case is not yet concluded,” he said. “There is going to be even more additional evidence that the judge will hear at sentencing. We’re not even done with this yet.”

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