A protester is dead following a confrontation of some kind in Austin. It’s hard to put together a real narrative of the events of last night due to the current charged political atmosphere regarding Black Lives Matter vs. law and order in America. Austin police gave a rather general statement on last night’s shooting in downtown.
PIO briefing on Homicide 202071411. https://t.co/gTOf5pskhP
— Austin Police Department (@Austin_Police) July 26, 2020
This narrative falls a bit into what one protester told Austin American-Statesman:
According to a witness, the incident began when the driver on Fourth Street honked, turned right and sped down Congress, driving through the crowd. He appeared to hit an orange barrier in the road and came to a stop, said Michael Capochiano, who attended the protest.
“There were people around the car, yelling, and people sounding like they were frightened,” Capochiano said.
A protester with a rifle approached the car, and the driver pointed his gun outside the window, Capochiano said. The driver fired several shots, then sped away, he said.
The man with the rifle “dropped to the ground when he got shot,” Capochiano said.
The shooter’s mother told a bit of a different tale to Good Morning America, however it’s important to note this is at least second-hand information.
There were relatively a thousand people at this protest and someone was driving erratically through the crowd. People were getting out of the way and telling this gentleman to slow down and stop driving because he was at risk of hitting someone. From what I’m understanding [her son] was pushing [his fiancee] through an intersection and this gentleman got out of his car and started firing shots and my son was shot three times.
Other people at the protest did speak to police including independent journalist Hiram Gilberto who live-streamed the protest all the way up to and after the shooting. Gilberto’s video doesn’t show the actual shooting but events leading up to it and a crowd running away after shots rang out.
— Uncle Nicky (@SpiderNS_) July 26, 2020
Gilberto posted on Facebook later he was giving a statement to officers.
There’s also dashcam video.
AUSTIN: Another angle of the shooting confirms exactly what witnesses described.
The car is stopped at the light, away from the march. The driver deliberately and accelerates and corners into the marchers.
The marchers did not surround the car; THE DRIVER DROVE INTO THE CROWD. pic.twitter.com/VVwTXzZqPE
— Chad Loder (@chadloder) July 26, 2020
I am more inclined to believe the witness who spoke with Austin American-Statesman than the shooter’s mother only because it appears to match the videos. Even those videos are too far away to show the major interactions between the shooter and protesters.
What do we know about the dead protester? His name was Garrett Foster, a man who was carrying an AK-47, per an interview he gave earlier in the evening. There’s also an image on social media people claim shows Foster pointing the weapon at the car, but it’s too grainy and the barrel of a weapon appears aimed at the ground, not the vehicle. Claims he fired at the vehicle first have yet to be proven.
It’s completely legal to open carry a long rifle in Texas without a License to Carry, including during protests. I’ve seen protesters open carry weapons before which is a little odd at first glance but hardly reason for fear. Second Amendment advocates shouldn’t have a problem with any protesters arming themselves because it’s completely within their rights and legal in Texas. It’s another story if they start threatening to shoot without provocation, however, there’s no proof Foster threatened anyone.
Be careful before rushing to judgment on Foster’s killing. His involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement in Austin is not any reason to think he was a gun-toting terrorist especially since the evidence doesn’t exist. It would also be unwise to call the shooter “a hero” or some Trump supporter since the details are still being sorted out. The shooting may end up being justified but charges are also possible.
Right now, we just don’t know and it’s wiser to wait before any declaration one way or the other appears necessary.
UPDATE (Taylor): A little more information came out Sunday afternoon regarding the shooting. Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told reporters there were multiple versions of the story but noted the initial information suggested Foster may have pointed his weapon first. Manley also noted the person inside the vehicle shot first but did not say why the driver was on Congress and went into the crowd. There was a second shooter, but Manley said he was someone who heard the shots, saw the vehicle drive off, and pulled his own handgun. Everyone involved had a License to Carry.
The chief said it was important for more people to come forward with either tips, photos, or video of what happened. Key factor here is whether more video will be released or if more people come out explaining what they saw.