Jury indicts Ft. Wainwright soldier for fatal shooting of BLM protester in Texas

A Fort Wainwright soldier who fatally shot a Black Lives Matter protester in Texas last year was indicted last week by a grand jury in Austin, Texas.

A white man in a military unitform posing in front of some flags
Army Sgt. Daniel Perry (U.S. Army photo)

Sgt. Daniel Perry was stationed at Fort Hood when he shot the protester on July 25, but on Sept. 1 he began a new tour at Fort Wainwright.

Perry said he shot the protester, who was carrying a rifle, out of self-defense. But a Fairbanks civil rights advocate worries the case could inflame local racial tensions. 

A U.S. Army Alaska spokesperson said Wednesday that Perry is assigned to the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team. But the spokesperson could not answer other questions about why the 34-year-old infantryman was allowed to be stationed here despite facing a trial.

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Travis County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kristen Dark said Perry was formally charged on July 1.

“He was booked into the Travis County Jail on two charges: murder and deadly conduct,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

A local television news outlet says Perry flew from Alaska to Texas last week to surrender to authorities after a warrant was issued for his arrest. Dark said he was released soon after posting a $300,000 bond.

“He was booked into the Travis County Jail around 2:20 that afternoon, and he was released from custody at 2:36, I believe,” she said.

Perry was off-duty that hot summer night, working a side gig as an Uber driver. He reportedly was waiting for a fare when he encountered protesters at a downtown intersection around 10 p.m.

According to the indictment, as Perry tried to turn onto a cross street, he “recklessly engage[d] in conduct that placed a group of protesters walking in the roadway … in imminent danger of serious bodily injury.” The indictment said he was texting on his cellphone while making the turn as pedestrians were in the crosswalk. Then he drove into a group of people who were in the street. That’s the basis of the deadly conduct charge.

A white man with a beard and a black woman take a selfie
Garrett Foster, left, was at the July 25, 2020 protest in downtown Austin, Texas, with his fiancee, Whitney Mitchell. (Credit Whitney Mitchell/Facebook)

The indictment said Perry threatened one of the pedestrians and drove toward that person. But he wasn’t able to get very far, because the street was filled with protesters.

One of them was 28-year-old Garrett Foster, who was carrying an AK-47, as is allowed under Texas’s open-carry laws.

Foster reportedly approached the car and Perry perceived that he was threatening him with the rifle, although eyewitnesses dispute that. Police say Perry drew his pistol, which he was legally allowed to carry, and shot Foster, fatally wounding him. An eyewitness recorded and posted a video of the incident.

Perry then drove away and later called police, who detained him briefly until he claimed he shot in self-defense. Perry and his lawyers argue he was justified to use deadly force under Texas’s Stand Your Ground law. Austin Police say they’re still investigating the shooting.

Both Perry and Foster are white. But BLM supporters say the shooting shows police don’t place a high priority on protecting protesters.

A Fairbanks civil-rights advocate said he’s also troubled about the case and its potential to further inflame local residents and activists who are angered over police brutality toward Alaska Natives and other people of color.

“There’s Blue Lives Matter marches that are going on,” said Bennie Colbert, a former head of the Fairbanks NAACP chapter. “There’s still a lot of activism with the Natives and the police department, and things of that nature. And then here we have the military situation.”

Colbert said in an interview Tuesday that he’s speaking as a concerned citizen about the caseHe said he’s troubled that Army officials permitted Perry to come to Fort Wainwright despite the fatal shooting and, now, the indictment.

“I think the military, somebody, should have taken this into consideration before bringing this into our small community,” Colbert said.

“This could be a volatile situation,” he said. “So, people need to sit down and discuss it.”

According to the Travis County District Court Clerk’s office, the next court proceeding in the case is scheduled for July 22.

A person in the Travis County Attorney’s office who spoke off the record said barring a plea deal or dismissal of charges, it may take a while for the case to come to trial because of a backlog of cases leftover from the pandemic shutdown.

Tim Ellis is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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