A man was fatally shot at a Black Lives Matter protest in Austin, Texas on Saturday night. Witnesses say that the suspect tried to drive through the crowd before firing gunshots at the victim. Police detained and questioned the suspect, but the suspect was later released “pending further investigation,” according to Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. They did not release the name of the suspect.
The shooting victim, identified as 28-year-old Austin resident Garrett Foster, was pronounced dead at the hospital. No one else was injured in the shooting. Foster had been protesting with his fiancé, Whitney Mitchell, who is a quadruple amputee.
Witnesses say that the incident began when the car started honking as it turned towards the area of the protest and stopped because of a large number of people on the road. According the Manley, Foster, who was holding an “AK-47 type assault rifle” approached the driver’s window of the car as others began hitting the vehicle. Gunshots were then fired from inside the car.
It’s unclear what happened. 911 callers received multiple calls, including one from the driver of the car who said they had been shot by someone who approached their vehicle and pointed a rifle at them.
“During the initial investigation of this incident it appears that Mr. Foster may have pointed his weapon at the driver of this vehicle prior to being shot,” Manley said.
Once gunshots were fired, another person in the crowd drew their concealed handgun and fired multiple shots at the car while it drove away.
One witness Michael Capochiano told The New York Times he saw the suspect’s car veer towards the car, causing people to run.
“You could hear the wheels squealing from hitting the accelerator so fast,” Capochiano, 53, said. “I’m a little surprised that nobody got hit. He was driving at an aggressive speed into the crowd.”
Capochiano also said 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.”
Manley said that there is an active investigation and detectives are reviewing videos, photos, and witness statements to “determine the precise actions of those involved.”
According to state law, openly carrying firearms in public places is legal in Texas as long as it’s not done “in a manner calculated to alarm.”
“They don’t let us march in the streets anymore, so I got to practice some of our rights,” Foster said in an interview he had with journalist Hiram Gilberto Garcia shortly before Foster was killed.
“I mean, if I use it against the cops, I’m dead, and I think all the people that hate us and want to say shit to us are too big of p*ssies to stop and actually do anything about it,” Foster said.
Foster and Mitchell had been together since they were 17. They attended the protest together as they had done “almost every day fo the past 50 days,” Foster’s mother Sheila Foster said.
Mitchell, whom Foster was pushing in her wheelchair at the time of the shooting, was not hurt.