AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than 24 hours after a man participating in an Austin protest was fatally shot, details about the sequence of events that led to his death and the police investigation into the incident remain murky.
Austin police confirmed that 28-year-old Garrett Foster was shot multiple times after a car turned into a group of demonstrators at 4th Street and Congress Avenue at around 9:51 p.m. on Saturday, July 25.
Police said that Foster was carrying an AK-47 type rifle when the car turned into the roadway and approached the driver’s side window as other demonstrators “began striking the vehicle.”
Gunshots were fired from inside the vehicle at Foster, APD reports.
APD has not indicated that Foster ever fired his weapon.
The driver of that car who turned into the crowd told police they had fired a handgun at someone who approached their driver-side window and pointed an assault-type weapon at them. Demonstrators who were present that night, however, tell KXAN this driver “aggressively accelerated” into the crowd of people.
Austin Police Department issued a release about the incident Monday afternoon which reiterated the details, at times word-for-word, that Austin Police Chief Brian Manley had shared in a press conference the evening prior.
In the release Monday, the department emphasized that its detectives are asking anyone with photos or videos of the incident to call APD Homicide at (512) 974-TIPS (8477), email them at email@example.com, use the anonymous Crime Stoppers tip line at (512) 472-TIPS (8477) or use the Crime Stoppers App. The public can also submit tips by downloading APD’s mobile app, Austin PD, free on iPhone and Android.
Perspectives captured on video
In a press conference Sunday, Manley alluded to the fact that many people have already seen videos of this incident on social media.
Among those who were filming at the time was independent journalist Hiram Gilberto Garcia who has been streaming protests in Austin over the past several months.
In the video, you can see a group of at least dozens of protesters walking down the street. Next, you can hear a car honking, people start to run in one direction, someone shouts “everybody back up!” then five gunshots can be heard, all in the span of ten seconds. People can be seen starting to run in the opposite direction and the camera drops to the ground as Gilberto Garcia presumably tries to take cover. Continued screams can be heard from the street.
Another vantage point captured on dash camera video was shared with KXAN by Robert Garrett and has no audio. The video shows the view of a car waiting at an intersection as protesters walk through the middle of the street nearby.
Something prompts many of the protesters to run quickly in one direction and then immediately turn around and run back in the opposite direction within a span of six seconds.
KXAN Photojournalist Alex Hoder took videos of the intersection of 4th Street and Congress in daylight to offer context for where downtown these events happened.
The police investigation
According to Austin Police, this incident played out on the 300 block of Congress Avenue during a protest march that was underway.
People present at that protest had told KXAN that several different demonstrations had been going on in downtown Austin that day, but eventually coalesced into a Black Lives Matter protest later in the evening.
Officers who were already downtown monitoring protests reported hearing two separate volleys of gunfire in that area.
9-1-1 also received multiple calls about gunfire at the same time in the same area.
When officers arrived to the scene, they saw Foster with multiple gunshot wounds. APD said its officers began trying to resuscitate Foster until Austin Fire Department arrived to help. Austin-Travis County EMS transported Foster to Dell Seton Medical Center where police say he succumbed to his wounds and was pronounced dead at 10.25 p.m.
Austin police say that one of the people who called 9-1-1 at that time was someone who said they had shot someone who had approached their driver’s window and pointed a rifle at them. This person told police they drove away from the scene after firing. Police said they told this 9-1-1 caller to pull over and officers located them, bringing them to the APD homicide office to be interviewed. This person’s handgun and car were taken in by APD as evidence.
APD said that witnesses at the scene shared differing versions of what happened to officers.
The department summarized that witnesses said the incident started when that car started honking its horn as it turned south onto Congress Ave. from 4th Street.
APD said “the vehicle stopped as there were a large number of people in the roadway.”
“Foster, who was holding an AK-47 type assault rifle, approached the driver’s side window as others in the crowd began striking the vehicle,” APD said in their release. “Gunshots were fired from inside the vehicle at Foster.”
Another individual told APD that after hearing that first volley of gunfire and seeing the car drive away from the crowd, they drew their concealed handgun and fired multiple shots at the car as it drove away. APD said this individual was also brought to the homicide office to be interviewed, and this individual’s handgun, along with Foster’s rifle were taken into evidence.
Both the driver of the vehicle who fired at Foster and the individual who fired at the car later on have been released “pending further investigation,” Manley said Sunday. He also noted that both people have concealed handgun licenses.
Manley told the press Sunday that APD believes the driver of the car who was taken into questioning was the first person to fire his weapon.
“We believe that as he turned onto Congress Avenue and that — as you could see in the videos — as the crowd surrounds his vehicle and as some of the protesters were striking his vehicle, his account is that Mr. Foster pointed the weapon directly at him and he fired his handgun at Mr. Foster,” Manley said.
Manley also told reporters that APD is not going to release any information from the driver about why he was there or what he was doing at the time because that information “is specific to the investigation.”
APD also noted that Homicide detectives and Crime Scene specialists processed the crime scene. Additionally, APD said that detectives are looking through videos, photos, and witness statements “to determine the precise actions of those involved. ”
The Travis County Medical Examiner’s office will be carrying out an autopsy to determine Foster’s cause and manner of death, Manley said.
KXAN sent APD’s public information office a series of questions Monday following up on details of this incident.
APD responded saying they don’t have any new information to share on this case today, but the spokesperson noted, “we are actively investigating and are encouraging anyone with information, videos, photos to come forward.”
Foster leaves behind his fiancé, Whitney Mitchell.
A statement was sent to KXAN Monday on behalf of Patricia Kirven, Mitchell’s mother.
“Whitney and our entire family are profoundly saddened by the loss of Garrett, who has been a loving, devoted member of our family for many years. Our family is unable to conduct any interviews at this time. We ask that you please respect our privacy as we deal with this loss.“-Patricia Kirven