AUSTIN, Texas — Garrett Foster, who was shot to death during a downtown Austin protest Saturday night, was remembered as a man dedicated to exercising his Second Amendment rights, stamping out racial injustice and caring for his fiancée, according to family and friends.
The incident leading up to the 28-year-old’s death began about 9:50 p.m. when a driver honked his horn and turned right onto a street where there was a crowd of protesters, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said Sunday.
Several protesters — including Foster, who was holding an assault rifle — approached the car, Manley said. He said the driver reported that Foster pointed the weapon at him. The driver then pointed his handgun outside the window, fired multiple shots and drove away, Manley said.
Someone else in the crowd opened fire on the car as it drove off, Manley said.
First responders performed CPR on Foster, but he died at Dell Seton Medical Center less than an hour after the shooting, officials said. No other injuries were reported.
Austin police said they detained the person who fired the fatal shots, and he cooperated with investigators. He has been released, along with the second shooter, Manley said.
Witnesses who attended the protest told the American-Statesman that the driver appeared to drive into the crowd and came to a stop when the vehicle hit an orange barrier. They also said Foster had his weapon pointed down.
Manley would not say why the driver was originally at the scene of the protest.
In a Facebook Live video of the hourslong march, a car’s honking is heard before two volleys of gunshots, a total of eight rounds, are unleashed. Several screaming protesters immediately take cover.
“We are heartbroken over the loss of Mr. Foster last night. It is actively being investigated … in conjunction with the Travis County district attorney’s office,” Manley said.
Foster grew up in Plano and had been living in Austin with his fiancée, Whitney Mitchell, for about two years. Mitchell was at the protest in a wheelchair with him at the time, and the two had been to such events in downtown Austin against police violence for months, according to protesters and Foster’s family.
Mitchell is Black and Foster is white, and issues of racial injustice were incredibly important to him, his family said.
“They’ve experienced so much hate just for their relationship in general,” said his sister, Anna Mayo. “From day one, he’s fought to end that.”
Mitchell and Foster started dating about a decade ago. Foster enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in his late teens and had to leave for basic training two months after Mitchell had all four of her limbs amputated after she developed a medical condition that led to sepsis.
Foster worked in the Air Force as a flight mechanic until he was 19, when he was discharged to be Mitchell’s full-time caretaker, his family said.
“That time when he was gone was so detrimental to both of them, because they were very much in love, and he had cared for her so well,” his aunt Karen Sourber said. “He’s been her primary caretaker ever since. He just loved her unconditionally and took care of everything.”
Protesters said they got to know the couple well throughout the many protests this summer.
“A lot of us haven’t slept — I haven’t been asleep,” protester Julian Salazar, who witnessed the shooting, said Sunday morning. “It’s been heartbreaking. A lot of us are angry, depressed, sad to learn that his (fiancée) now is going to be struggling. The one person she had here in Austin, who was always going to be there for her, is now gone.”
Foster often talked to protesters about his rifle, which he brought to the protests, Salazar said. Mayo said Second Amendment rights were important to him.
“My brother would have never, ever pointed a gun at somebody,” Mayo said. “He always carried his guns with him. He had a license to carry in Texas — we’re an open carry state. He always would exercise his right to carry, but he would never threaten somebody. He was one of the most kindhearted people — that was the whole reason he was out there.”
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