AUSTIN (KXAN) — A vigil of flowers, candles and paintings grows on the corner of 4th and Congress in downtown Austin.
Two men stand guard, ensuring vandals don’t come near.
“Mr. Foster is not resting in peace, he’s resting in power,” said Michael Ross, who has lived in Austin since 1994. “I’m watching over his memorial.”
No one assigned Ross to look over the memorial of Garrett Foster, the protester who was shot and killed on Saturday, July 25 while demonstrating with a Black Lives Matter march. He says he’s doing it out of the kindness of his own heart. He was upset when someone approached earlier in the week, breaking glass and smearing the vigil with white paint.
“Why vandalize when this man is fighting for your rights?” Ross questioned.
He’s not alone. Joshua Franklin has been by his side for several hours. He was protesting last Saturday along with dozens of others. He says the Black Lives Matter movement is close to his heart and that Foster fully exemplified its mission.
“He really truly believed in what he was doing, fighting for change. Helping out his fellow man,” Franklin said.
Despite their mutual willingness to protect a memorial of a man they hardly knew, both have differing views of the other man who has claimed responsibility for his death.
Franklin feels anger and confusion towards the actions of Sgt. Daniel Perry. For Ross, he’s found mercy and understanding in his heart.
On Thursday, Clint Broden, an attorney representing Perry, released a statement, saying his client was acting in self defense when he fired upon Foster.
Broden says Perry was on-the-clock, driving for a rideshare company when he turned onto Congress Avenue. That’s when he says protesters surrounded the vehicle, beating on the car and threatening him.
“An individual carrying an assault rifle, now known to be Garrett Foster, quickly approached the car and then motioned with the assault rifle for Mr. Perry to lower his window,” Broden wrote. “Sgt. Perry initially believed the person was associated with law enforcement and complied with the command. After rolling down the window, it became apparent to Sgt. Perry that the individual with the assault rifle was not with law enforcement.”
No charges have been filed against Perry. Austin Police have not officially confirmed he is the shooter, but have said all of the parties involved in the incident were fully cooperative and were later released. The investigation is still ongoing.
“It has now been confirmed by several witnesses that this individual with the assault rifle then began to raise the assault rifle toward Sgt. Perry. It was only then that Sgt. Perry, who carried a handgun in his car for his own protection while driving strangers in the ride share program, fired on the person to protect his own life.”Clint Broden, Attorney representing Sgt. Daniel Perry
Despite the throughness of Perry’s written account, witnesses at the scene, including Franklin, say that is not how they remember it.
“I don’t see how it’s self defense when he brought the car into there. He was intending to do damage one way or another, either with that car or with the gun,” Franklin said.
Both Uber and Lyft have explicit policies prohibiting guns in cars. That goes for both drivers and passengers. Lyft responded to KXAN Friday afternoon when asked if Perry worked for the company.
“Based on the name given, we have no records indicating that this individual ever drove with Lyft,” the company said.
Uber has not yet responded to KXAN’s questions asking if Perry worked for them.
Ross, however, recognizes the anger many people feel towards Perry, but said its up to the public to find forgiveness in their hearts.
“It’s not easy. It’s not! I know it isn’t,” Ross said. “But forgiveness is key. To the man that had actually took another man’s life, you are forgiven in my heart. May he rest in power. People are not forgetting and they will continue to march.”