As the Texas pardons board considers a request from Gov. Greg Abbott to pardon a man convicted last week of fatally shooting a protester at a Black Lives Matter rally, newly unsealed documents show the Army sergeant talked about killing people and shared racist comments on social media, the Houston Chronicle reported.
The documents from the case against Daniel Perry contain messages and posts made over several years, the report said. They were originally filed March 27 and were unsealed by a Travis County judge Thursday, the Chronicle report said. CNN is working to obtain copies of the documents.
Perry, a White man, was convicted last Friday on a murder charge in the July 2020 shooting death of Garrett Foster, who was also White, at a racial justice rally in Austin held in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
In a Facebook message from May 2020, just weeks before the shooting, Perry told a friend he “might have to kill a few people” who were rioting outside his apartment, the Chronicle reported.
The documents also contain a May 2020 text sent by Perry that said, “I might go to Dallas to shoot looters,” according to the Chronicle. Some messages included “white power” memes, the report said.
Perry wrote in a 2019 message that it was “to [sic] bad we can’t get paid for hunting Muslims in Europe,” the Chronicle reported.
On the night of July 25, 2020, Perry was working as a ride-share driver and had just dropped someone off near the rally when he shot Foster. His attorneys argued the shooting was in self-defense after Foster approached his car with an assault-style rifle. Prosecutors argued Perry initiated the encounter by running a red light and turning into the crowd gathered at the protest.
Shortly after Perry’s conviction, Abbott said he would seek a pardon and asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for an expedited review of the case.
“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 posted in a statement on Twitter.
Perry’s attorney, Clint Broden, called the release of the documents a political decision in a statement to CNN. He accused Travis County District Attorney José Garza of choosing to “take full advantage” of being able to share the social media posts at this point in the case.
CNN has reached out to Garza’s office for a response. CNN has also reached out to the governor’s office for comment. An attorney for the Foster family declined to comment on the unsealed documents.
In a social media status posted on June 1, 2020, Perry said, “It is official I am a racist because I do not agree with people acting like animals at the zoo. I was on the side of the protestors until they started with the looting and the violence,” the documents posted by the Chronicle show.
A comment from the same day shows Perry compared the “black lives matter movement to a zoo full of monkeys that are freaking out flinging their sh*t,” the documents show.
In another post from May 31, 2020, Perry posted, “If this symbol represents racism in America… (shows confederate flag) SO DO THESE (shows NAACP logo, Hispanic Scholarship fund, America Association for Affirmative Action, BET, UNCP, the democratic party logo, etc,” according to the documents posted by the Chronicle.
Perry’s posts were made amid a racial reckoning across the US after graphic video of Floyd’s death showed a police officer kneeling on the Black man as he is prone and handcuffed on a Minneapolis street. In the months that followed, protests were held in cities across the county. Most were peaceful but some turned violent, including instances of vandalism and arson.
In addition to Perry’s murder conviction, the jury found him not guilty on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. A deadly conduct charge is still pending with the county attorney’s office.
Perry’s attorneys filed a motion Tuesday asking for a new trial, arguing the defense team was not allowed to introduce evidence they believe showed Foster repeatedly instigated confrontations and harassed other drivers on the streets before the night of the deadly shooting.
Garza’s office called it a standard motion following a conviction and said it has “full confidence in the guilty verdict.”
Abbott on Saturday said he is “working as swiftly as Texas law allows regarding the pardon of Sgt. Perry.”
Abbott can only pardon Perry if the state Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends it, according to Texas law. The board said Monday it had received Abbott’s request for an expedited pardon review and it would be “commencing that investigation immediately.”
Garza said Abbott’s intervention in the case before the sentencing and appeal process plays out is “deeply troubling.”
The prosecutor asked the board to meet with him so he can present evidence considered by jurors in the case, Garza said in a statement.
Garza also asked the board to meet with Foster’s family and consider the public safety implications of their decision before making a final recommendation.
“For as long the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has existed, it has been a cautious steward of the power of clemency in our State,” Garza said. “We look forward to working with the Board to present all evidence necessary for its consideration.”
A civil attorney representing Foster’s family also criticized Abbott’s move for a pardon before the sentencing and appeals process, saying it “turns the rule of law on its head.”