AUSTIN, Texas — It was common for Garrett Foster to be at a protest towards police brutality on a Saturday night time. And it was not out of character for him to be armed as he marched.
Mr. Foster was carrying an AK-47 rifle as he joined a Black Lives Matter demonstration blocks from the State Capitol in Austin, Texas. Gun-rights supporters on each the left and the correct typically carry rifles at protests in Texas, a state whose liberal gun legal guidelines enable it.
Mr. Foster, sporting a black bandanna and a baseball cap, ran into an impartial journalist on the march on Saturday, and he spoke matter-of-factly concerning the weapon that was draped on a strap in entrance of him.
“They don’t let us march in the streets anymore, so I got to practice some of our rights,” Mr. Foster advised the journalist, Hiram Gilberto Garcia, who was broadcasting the interview dwell on Periscope. “If I use it against the cops, I’m dead,” he conceded.
Later that night time, Mr. Foster was fatally shot, however not by the police. The authorities stated he was killed by a motorist who had a confrontation with protesters.
The police and witnesses stated the person within the automobile turned it aggressively towards the marchers, and Mr. Foster then approached it. The driver opened fireplace, capturing Mr. Foster 3 times. He was rushed to a hospital and was later pronounced lifeless.
Austin’s police chief, Brian Manley, advised reporters on Sunday that because the motorist turned, a crowd of protesters surrounded the car, and a few struck the automobile. The driver, whose title has not been launched, then opened fireplace from contained in the automobile as Mr. Foster approached. Another individual within the crowd pulled out a handgun and shot on the car because it sped away.
Minutes after the capturing, the motive force known as 911 and stated he had been concerned in a capturing and had pushed away from the scene, Chief Manley stated. The caller advised dispatchers he had shot somebody who had approached the motive force’s window and pointed a rifle at him.
“His account is that Mr. Foster pointed the weapon directly at him and he fired his handgun at Mr. Foster,” the chief stated of the motive force.
Both the motive force and the opposite one who fired a weapon had been detained and interviewed by detectives. Both had state-issued handgun licenses and have been launched because the investigation continues, Chief Manley stated.
The capturing surprised a capital metropolis the place demonstrations and marches are a proud and commonplace custom. A GoFundMe page to help Mr. Foster’s relatives with his funeral expenses had already raised nearly $100,000 by Sunday evening.
And while Mayor Steve Adler and other officials expressed their condolences on Sunday, at least one police leader criticized Mr. Foster.
On Twitter, Kenneth Casaday, the president of the Austin police officers’ union, retweeted a video clip of Mr. Foster explaining to Mr. Garcia, the independent journalist, why he brought his rifle. In the clip, Mr. Foster is heard using curse words to talk about “all the people that hate us,” but are too afraid to “stop and actually do anything about it.”
In his tweet, Mr. Casaday wrote: “This is the guy that lost his life last night. He was looking for confrontation and he found it.”
Mr. Garcia, who has filmed numerous Austin demonstrations in recent weeks, captured the chaotic moments of the shooting live on video. Protesters are seen marching through an intersection when a car blares its horn. Marchers appear to converge around the car as a man calls out, “Everybody back up.” At that instant, five shots ring out, followed shortly by several more loud bangs that echo through the downtown streets.
Mr. Foster, who had served in the military, was armed, but he was not seeking out trouble at the march, relatives and witnesses told reporters. At the time of the shooting, Mr. Foster was pushing his fiancée through the intersection in her wheelchair.
Mr. Foster and his fiancée, Whitney Mitchell, had been taking part in protests against police brutality in Austin daily since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Mr. Foster is white, and Ms. Mitchell, who is a quadruple amputee, is African-American. She was not injured in the shooting.
“He was doing it because he feels really strongly about justice and he’s very heavily against police brutality, and he wanted to support his fiancée,” Mr. Foster’s mother, Sheila Foster, said in an interview with “Good Morning America,” adding that she was not surprised he was armed while at the march.
“He does have a license to carry, and he would’ve felt the need to protect himself,” Ms. Foster said.
In Texas, it is lawful to carry rifles, shotguns and other so-called long guns on the street without a permit, as long as the weapons are not brandished in a threatening manner; state-issued licenses are required only to carry handguns.
The presence of Mr. Foster’s weapon could play a key role in the case if the driver claims that he shot Mr. Foster out of fear for his life, a defense allowed under the so-called “stand your ground” law in the state.
The shooting reignited a long-running debate in Texas about the “open carry” movement, in which many men and women carry their rifles and other weapons in public places.
Gun-control supporters say the movement that encourages such displays seeks to intimidate the police and the public, while gun-rights activists defend it as a celebration of their Second Amendment rights.
In a 2016 attack on police officers at a downtown Dallas demonstration, several marchers carried AR-15s and other military-style rifles, and local officials said their presence created confusion for police officers. A single gunman, Micah Johnson, a former Army reservist, killed five officers.
“There are multiple layers to this tragedy, but adding guns to any emotional and potentially volatile situation can, and too often does, lead to deadly violence,” Ed Scruggs, the board president of Texas Gun Sense, a gun legislation reform group, said in a statement about the Austin shooting.
C.J. Grisham, founder and president of the gun-rights organization Open Carry Texas, defended the practice of bringing rifles to rallies and marches, particularly after numerous attacks around the country in which motorists have driven their cars into demonstrations and injured or killed protesters.
“Protesters are under attack from a wide variety of people,” Mr. Grisham said. “It’s unfortunate these days that if you’re going to exercise your First Amendment rights, you probably need to be exercising your Second Amendment rights as well.”
The shooting occurred shortly before 10 p.m. James Sasinowski, 24, a witness, said it seemed the driver was trying to turn a corner and did not want to wait for marchers to pass.
“The driver intentionally and aggressively accelerated into a crowd of people,” Mr. Sasinowski said. “We were not aggravating him at all. He incited the violence.”
Michael Capochiano, another witness, had a slightly different account of what happened. He said he was marching with other demonstrators when he saw a motorist honk his horn and turn toward the crowd, forcing people to scatter.
“You could hear the wheels squealing from hitting the accelerator so fast,” said Mr. Capochiano, 53, a restaurant accountant. “I’m a little surprised that nobody got hit.”
The car came to a stop after turning from Fourth Street onto Congress Avenue and appeared to strike a traffic pylon. As people shouted angrily at the driver, Mr. Foster walked toward the car, with the muzzle of his rifle pointed downward, he said.
“He was not aiming the gun or doing anything aggressive with the gun,” Mr. Capochiano said. “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.”
David Montgomery reported from Austin and Manny Fernandez from Houston. Bryan Pietsch contributed reporting from Andover, Minn.