Garrett Foster, 28, was shot and killed on Saturday night in Austin while he attended a Black Lives Matter rally. The shooting occurred on Fourth Street and Congress Avenue, a well-traveled area just a few blocks from the Austin convention center.
Garrett and many others were marching in support of the BLM movement, as they have done on many nights since the choking death of George Floyd. The rallies have grown in size since the arrests began in Portland.
A driver began honking his horn. Garrett walked up to the car with a rifle in his hands. Garrett was shot, and immediately afterward shots were fired at the car. The driver of the car then fled the scene.
Video was immediately sent across social media, with the description of Foster, then unidentified, as a person who had been “murdered”. Afterward, Garrett’s weapon was identified and he was confirmed to have been carrying a gun, which he was pointing toward the car. His supporters have shifted to showing pictures of him in happier times, often accompanied by his quadruple amputee girlfriend. She attended all of the rallies with him, as he pushed her wheelchair. Garrett was armed at all of the rallies, and had authorization for open carry in Texas.
The pair had given an interview shortly beforehand, which is currently being presented in part by reporting outlet Brut America.
The driver of the car, upon fleeing the scene, immediately called the police and informed them that someone may have been shot at the protest location. They have cooperated with the police fully and have not been publicly identified. Both the driver and the passenger have been taken in for questioning, then released.
The car has been described as “driving toward the protesters” before Garrett approached the vehicle; that is technically true and effectively false. Video shows that the car had been stopped at the location for an unknown duration while protesters streamed past. It then shows the driver laying on the horn and making a small movement with the car – less than a foot – before stopping again. This is not the action of someone attempting to hit protesters, but it is the motion of someone who is tired of being held up by people illegally crossing in front of them.
In the interview, Garrett admits that the police had taken to arresting the protesters as soon as they crossed into streets. Because crossing streets legally is not so much as a misdemeanor, and no serious complaints about police abuses have been addressed to the Austin department regarding the actions of their officers during the protests, it follows that the protesters had been regularly crossing illegally… which was what was happening in the video. It is likely that the driver was frustrated with people continually holding them up and breaking the law, and was trying to signal that they wanted to turn.
The protesters responded to the honk by approaching the car and beating on the windows and body with their fists. Garrett approached as well, carrying his rifle which was pointed at the car.
The rifle reportedly had the safety on. His supporters have said that he had the rifle pointed at the hood of the car, not the people in the window. Neither of these defenses is likely to hold up in court if charges are pressed against the shooter. It is impossible for the driver to have known the condition of the safety, and a rifle which is pointed in one’s general direction while people are being assaulted by an angry crowd does not necessarily have to be aimed well enough to ensure a fatal strike before retaliation is appropriate.
While Texas does have open carry, it also has “stand your ground” laws, and people who have a reasonable belief their life is immediately threatened are allowed to defend themselves. The driver, as well as Garrett, was armed legally.
The gunshots which immediately followed, aimed at the car, provide a reason for the driver to flee the scene. Their immediate report afterward likely fulfills their legal obligation regarding the incident.
This is a tragedy, as a life was unnecessarily lost. But it is a primer on what not to do. Protesters should not be illegally obstructing traffic. Protesters should not strike the vehicle or person of those who disagree with them. Protesters do not have any special rights to commit crimes simply because they have gathered a large crowd together.
Most critically, people should not, if they are legally carrying a weapon, point that weapon toward anyone or anything they do not intend to fire upon.
It seems that repeated judgement failures are what led to Garrett’s death, pending any further revelations from the Austin police department.
Note: as of yet, there is no indication that Garrett had any connection to the loose “Antifa” movement other than voicing support for Black Lives Matter; and the protest was peaceful until the firefight, and it would still not classify in any way as a “riot”, the way some on the Republican side have attempted to define it. Just as Garrett is being praised as acting in a heroic way by the Black Lives Matter activists and their advocates, the actual misdemeanors and failures are being amplified and mischaracterized by many of their opponents.