Garrett Foster, 28, was identified as the man who died in a shooting at a Black Lives Matter protest in Austin, Texas, on Saturday night, July 25. Foster was often at the protests in Austin. He was a Libertarian military veteran and witnesses said he was well-known among the activists participating in the protests in the city. Foster’s mother said he was shot dead while with his fiancee, Whitney Mitchell, a quadruple amputee who was in a wheelchair, according to local ABC affiliate KTRK-TV.
Police have not yet publicly identified Foster as the victim in the shooting. Witnesses said a car “sped toward protesters” before the driver shot Foster, KTRK reported. An unnamed suspect was taken into custody by Austin Police and is cooperating in the investigation, the station reported. Foster’s mother, Sheila Foster, identified her son in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America.
Witnesses and police said Foster was carrying a rifle. Open carry is legal in Texas. Police said he was approaching a car that had driven up to the crowd of protesters. Sheila Foster told Good Morning America her son and his fiancee were taking part in the protest when the driver “got out of his car and started firing shots, and my son was shot three times.”
Foster’s mother said her son has a license to carry and “would have felt the need to protect himself. Some of these things we have seen on the media have tended to go a little violently. It was a chaotic situation. There were relatively a thousand people at the protest and someone was driving erratically through the crowd. People were getting out of the way and telling this gentleman to slow down and telling him to just stop driving because he was at risk of hitting someone.” She said that is when Foster was shot.
Tony Plohetski of the Austin American-Statesman shared on Twitter that police believe there were two shooters, but Foster was not one of them. Officials said one shooter was the driver and the other was in the crowd and may have opened fire as the car was driving away. In a later press conference on Sunday, Police Chief Brian Manley confirmed that the driver was the first person to shoot his weapon.
Here’s what you need to know about Garrett Foster and the shooting:
Foster Was Downtown at the Protest With His Fiancee, Whitney Mitchell, When the Shooting Happened & Was Pushing Her Wheelchair, His Mother Says
The shooting happened just before 10 p.m. on Saturday night, July 25, in downtown Austin. Police said the suspect drove into the protests and shot at Foster, but the details of exactly what transpired are still being determined. The photo in the Facebook post above was taken earlier in the day before the protest happened. Foster is wearing the green shirt, standing next to Whitney Mitchell, who is in the wheelchair. According to Mitchell’s Facebook page, they were engaged, but some friends said on social media that they were married.
In a video taken after the shooting, Hiram Gilberto interviewed a protester about what happened. Gilberto was at the scene and recorded live when the shooting happened. The woman told Gilberto that Foster was Mitchell’s husband and her caretaker. She said the two had been out nearly every day during the protests.
Sheila Foster told Good Morning America her son was pushing Mitchell’s wheelchair before he was shot. She said Mitchell’s mother reached out to tell her her son had been shot. “They’ve been participating in these protests almost every day for the past 50 days,” Sheila Foster told Good Morning America. “I talked to him two days ago and I was texting him yesterday, I didn’t get to talk to him today.”
She said he told her the protests were “extremely peaceful” and he “hadn’t experienced any of the negative stuff that we’re seeing sometimes on the media. 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 fiancee, his fiancee is an African-American woman. They’ve been together since they were 17 years old. He just felt really strong about justice.”
Just last year, Garrett Foster shared a post about how he and Mitchell had been together for 10 years and were celebrating their anniversary.
“A car drove up. We were taking the streets, and he shot Garrett,” an unidentified protester told Gilberto just a few minutes after the shooting. “Garrett is the husband of Whitney, a quadriplegic in a wheelchair, and he is her caretaker and has been for like 10 years. … They’ve been out here for … all 50 days so far.”
Foster’s Family Says He ‘Fought Against Injustice, Served in the Military & Was Fiercely Protective of His Fiancee’
After the shooting, Mitchell and her friends joined together to mourn Foster.
A video by Austin Young Professionals – LULAC remembered Foster as a kind-hearted man they often saw at the protests.
A friend on Facebook said that Foster was known for doing outreach to the homeless in the city.
Foster’s family has started a GoFundMe to help raise money after the shooting. Patricia Kirven wrote on the GoFundMe, “Garrett Foster was murdered last night July 25th while attending a peaceful protest in Austin, TX with his disabled fiancée in her wheelchair. An unknown vehicle barreled into the crowd and this evil person shot and killed Garrett, while he was trying to protect his fiancée.”
Kirven added, “A great person was taken away from his fiancée, his mother, father, siblings and a host of loving family members. He fought against injustice, served in the military and was fiercely protective of his fiancée. They fell in love at 17 and were never apart. This fund is established to cover funeral, burial and other expenses in the days to come. We appreciate all the love , support and compassion during this emotional time.”
Foster Was a Libertarian Who Supported Jo Jorgensen’s Candidacy
Foster wasn’t shy about sharing that he supported Jo Jorgensen’s presidential campaign. Jorgensen is running as the Libertarian candidate for President.
His last public post on Facebook shared a Libertarian quote about not trusting the government.
He was also open in sharing his disagreement with actions that the federal police were taking in Portland.
He often talked about how he felt things would improve in the country under a Jorgenson presidency.
He Was Interviewed Before the Shooting & Said He Was Carrying an AK-47
Before the shooting, Foster was interviewed by someone at the protest. You can watch the clip of the video below.
In the video, Foster says he has an AK-47.
“They don’t let us march in the streets anymore, so I’ve gotta practice some of our rights,” he says.
When asked if he is going to use it, he says no.
“Nah… If I use it against the cops, I’m dead. I think all the people that hate us and want to say s*** to us are too big of pussies to stop and actually do anything about it.”
He says he started carrying after his roommate was arrested.
“Well, my roommate got arrested and they stopped letting us march anywhere, so I started carrying.”
According to a Facebook post, he bought an AK-47 in late June.
Police Said Foster May Have Approached the Driver but Later Clarified That Foster Was Not Among the 2 Shooters
The shooting happened on Saturday night, July 25, just before 10 p.m. near the intersection of Congress Avenue and East 6th Street, KXAN reported. Reports from witnesses vary on exactly what happened when Foster was shot.
In a press conference, the Austin police said Foster died of a gunshot wound after he was transported to a hospital, although they did not name Foster at the time.
Police spokesperson Katrina Ratcliff told the press on Saturday night: “One adult male victim was located with a gunshot wound. That victim was transported … but was pronounced deceased shortly thereafter. Initial reports indicate that the victim may have been carrying a rifle and approached suspect vehicle. Suspect was in the vehicle and shot at the victim. Suspect was detained and is cooperating with officers. … There’s no longer a threat to the public and no one else has been reported injured.”
Witness reports differed from what was shared at the press conference. A witness on the scene told Mose Buchele from NPR station KUT that a blue car came swerving into the middle of the street, almost hitting protesters.
The witness told Buchele:
As we’re walking down passing 4th street, a blue car just comes swerving out into the middle of the street almost runs over a bunch of protesters… Everybody around starts, like, smacking the car trying to get him to slow down. And they stop. And some guy, he walks up and he’s like ‘Hey just don’t do that you’re going to get somebody hurt.’ And he [in car] pulls down his window and he fires three shots into the guy. From point blank. No words no nothing. And then rolls up his window and zooms off. He just fired straight into the mess of the crowd. Not away from it, but towards it.
Another witness shared a similar story, which you can watch in the video here.
On Sunday, officials said there were two shooters involved but Foster was not one of them. The Austin American-Statesman’s Plohetski shared the updates on Twitter, saying officials believed one shooter was the driver and the other was in the crowd, possibly firing when the car drove away.
He clarified that Foster was not one of the two shooters.
A witness to the shooting, James Sasinowski, shared on Twitter what he saw happen. He wrote: “So I just watched someone in our Austin #BLM protest get shot by some random white dude in a luxury sedan. I was 20 ft from the firing. That was…sobering? I’m not sure I have the right words right now… The driver aggressively drove into a crowd of people. The driver instigated the entire incident… Police were there in seconds, but EMS took forever. It was weird… There were hundreds of protesters marching north up Congress Ave and had started to make their way into the 4th St intersection… There is no way the driver saw Garrett before accelerating. Garrett was in the middle of a crowd of hundreds.”
He also retweeted a detailed explanation he wrote about what he saw.
Sasinowski wrote that he saw a black luxury sedan attempting to turn right, but the march was in the way.
He wrote: “Instead of waiting for the protestors to move beyond this space or simply slowly moving so we could make room for them, the driver quickly accelerated and almost ran over some protesters. Another witness told me they actually hit some bodies. They then quickly slowed down about halfway through the turn only to speed back up to get onto Congress, again almost running over protesters. This time, many protesters started banging on their vehicle and some intentionally got in front of their path to force them to stop, which they did. A crowd rapidly grew around the vehicle and people were trying to get a picture of the license plate. At this point, I was probably about 10-15 feet north and about 5 feet east of the northeast corner of the now south-facing vehicle… Within ten seconds of the driver stopping, while I had my head turned forward, I heard 1-2 shots fired. I turned my head back and witnesses at least two more shots being fired. The driver had their arm fully extended out of the driver’s window with what I would guess was a semi-automatic handgun…”
Officials have said that Foster did not fire his weapon, but the shots came from the driver and one other person.
In a press conference on Sunday night, Manley confirmed that the driver was the first to shoot a weapon and that Foster did not shoot his. He said the driver called 911 and claimed that Foster had pointed his weapon at him when the crowd approached the car, but Foster did not shoot.
Manley, when asked if the driver was the first to shoot his weapon, said: “Based on what we know right now, that is what we believe. We believe that as he turned onto Congress Ave…and some of the protesters are striking his vehicle…his account is Mr. Foster pointed the weapon directly at him and he fired his handgun at Mr. Foster.”
When asked why the man was driving in the protest in the first place, Manley said: “That information is specific to the investigation and we’re not going to release anything the driver told us at this point about why he was there and what he was doing.”
The two people who shot their weapons have been released pending an investigation. Police have not released either shooter’s name.