Garrett Foster and his fiancée, Whitney Mitchell, a quadruple amputee who uses a wheelchair, were at a protest in Austin on Saturday night when Foster was shot and killed.
AUSTIN — Police have released the driver who allegedly killed an armed protester Saturday night in downtown Austin, while they investigate what led to the fatal shooting.
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley identified the man who was shot as Garrett Foster.
Foster was attending the protest against police violence and had been pushing the wheelchair of his fiancée, Whitney Mitchell, 28, who is a quadruple amputee, their mothers told The Dallas Morning News. The couple, who met in North Texas as teenagers, moved to Austin a couple of years ago and had attended protests in recent weeks.
Austin police are investigating what occurred between Foster, who they said was carrying an AK-47-style rifle during the protest, and the driver, who called police to report that he’d shot someone.
Accounts of what happened that night vary, police said.
Witnesses reported that just before 10 p.m. Saturday, a car turned down the street toward the protesters and the driver started honking its horn. The vehicle stopped in the roadway, police said, and Foster approached the driver’s side window as others began striking the car. The driver then opened fire, striking Foster.
Manley said at a news conference Sunday that the driver reported Foster pointed his weapon at them before the shooting. The chief said a second shooter, who was not Foster, returned fire as the car left the scene.
The driver and the other person who fired a weapon were released after they gave police their accounts of what happened. Both of them had a license to carry a handgun, Manley said. Police did not say whether Foster had a such a license, but it is legal in Texas to openly carry a rifle like an AK-47 without a license. To carry a handgun openly or concealed, one must have a license, unless a person is transporting their own handgun while driving their vehicle. It’s illegal to brandish any deadly weapon, including a gun, “in a manner calculated to alarm.”
Austin police are reviewing witness videos and statements “to determine the precise actions of those involved.” They are asking for help from other people who may have additional evidence to turn over.
“We are heartbroken over the loss of Mr. Foster last night,” Manley said.
Patricia Kirven, Mitchell’s mother, was driving from Plano to Austin to be with her daughter when The News reached her Sunday afternoon. She said she had worried about the couple’s attendance at the protests.
“I told her not to go. I was afraid something would happen,” Kirven said. “She said, ‘I don’t feel like I’m doing enough. I want to do more.‘
“She physically is OK, but mentally she is not. ‘Inconsolable’ is the only word I can think of, because she’ll talk for a bit and then break down.”
Sheila Foster, Garrett Foster’s mother, told The News that racial equity issues were important to her son, who was white, and Mitchell, who is Black.
“He was going to these protests because he was fighting against police brutality,” Foster said. “He was pushing her wheelchair across the intersection when this happened. Thank God she didn’t get hit.”
Sheila Foster said the couple met in an online chat room when the Fosters were living in Plano and Mitchell in Richardson. When they turned 18 a year later, they got engaged. The next month, Mitchell was struck down by a mysterious illness, Foster said.
After she was shunted from her doctor to the emergency room to the intensive care unit, Mitchell was put on life support, according to an article The News published about her in 2011. As Mitchell’s body tried to fight off infection, it shut down blood flow to her limbs. To fight septic shock, doctors amputated her arms and legs.
Sheila Foster said her son, who was in the military at the time, came home as quickly as possible to take care of Mitchell.
“He’s been doing it ever since,” Foster told The News. “He loved that woman unconditionally.”
Foster and Mitchell moved to Austin about two years ago, the couple’s mothers said. Both shy and introverted, he took care of her and she designed and made clothes, all “with no arms and legs,” his mother said. Sewing started as a form of therapy for Mitchell, Kirven said, that grew into a passion and a business.
But Mitchell’s mother said her daughter had put that work on hold in recent weeks while the couple funneled as much time as they could into attending the protests. Foster said she knew her son had brought a firearm to the protest, though she advised against it. Hiram Gilberto, a journalist who took video of much of the protest, filmed Foster earlier in the night with the gun.
“They don’t let us march in the streets anymore, so I got to practice some of our rights,” Foster said on the video. “If I use it against the cops, I’m dead.”
Kirven said she doesn’t believe that Garrett Foster would have approached the driver in an antagonistic manner.
“He jumped in front of Whitney and the guy rolled down the window and shot him,” Kirven said, relaying the accounts of the couple’s friends. “They thought the person was aiming at her because she is a sitting duck.”
After the shooting, Kirven said she got a call from her daughter: “All I can hear her say is that, ‘Garrett is shot! Garrett is shot!’ ”
Foster said she hadn’t spoken to Mitchell since her son’s fiancée called her on the way to the hospital: “She loved him so much, and he loved her so much.”
After the shooting, a crowd gathered outside Austin police headquarters, where protesters repeatedly chanted: “Say his name! Garrett Foster,” according to an Austin American-Statesman reporter who tweeted a video of the gathering. By Sunday afternoon, a memorial fund already had raised nearly $60,000.
Sheila Foster is unsure about what to do next.
“I don’t know what kind of a funeral he would have wanted, because I never thought I had to discuss that with my son,” she said.
Staff writer Dana Branham and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Author: Lauren McGaughy
Source: Dallas News: Austin police investigating shooting death of protester