Updated: Oct 2, 2021
In July of 2020 Garrett Foster was shot and killed at a Black Lives Matter protest in Austin, Texas by Daniel Perry, an Army Sergeant stationed at nearby Fort Hood.
This shooting has been the subject of some controversy – many have praised Perry as a hero, saying that he was justified in shooting Foster, who approached his vehicle carrying a rifle, and attempting to smear Foster as a radical Communist looking for trouble, and not simply a peaceful protestor exercising his rights to peaceably assemble, speak freely, and bear arms. Others, to include numerous eyewitnesses, say that Perry drove around a barricade at the intersection of 4th and Congress into a lawfully permitted protest, accelerating aggressively and attempting to strike protestors with his car, before killing Foster with a .357 Magnum revolver (this detail is important later). Perry, who moonlighted as an Uber driver, was present in Austin against a standing order from his command team. Many of those familiar with this case hold the opinion that the only involved party looking for trouble was Perry, and that Foster, escorting his wheelchair-bound fiancé, only walked over to check on Perry and offer assistance in escorting him out of the protest before being shot. When this video was made public in July of 2020, many believed the shots they were hearing originated from Foster’s weapon, an AKMS variant. The staccato of fire and the tone and pitch of the report are more consistent with a revolver. Camera footage filmed by other participants in this protest show a large muzzle flash originating within the cab of the vehicle. Austin Police Department reported that Foster’s rifle was recovered with a full magazine, a round in the chamber, and the fire selector set to “safe.” This indicates that Foster did not fire his weapon, as was originally reported – or that he, after being shot three times with a .357 Magnum at near point blank range managed to insert a fresh magazine and make the weapon safe before dying (which I personally find hard to believe – the coroner’s report shows that Foster, in not so many words, was dead before he hit the ground). Others use this same video footage to say that Foster leveled his weapon at Perry, thus justifying Perry in shooting Foster. Upon further examination, it is clear from the angle of the magazine and the barrel that Foster’s AKMS was pointed at the deck, and that he may have been raising the weapon to defend himself upon seeing Perry present his revolver. All of this being said, I am not writing concerning who did what, who said what, or right from wrong.
I am attempting to use the tactical lessons learned in this incident to better prepare you, the reader, for dealing with vehicle-borne threats in dynamic, chaotic environments such as protests, riots, and civil unrest. In order to do so, I will have to offer criticism of Foster’s actions from an objective, practical standpoint. Thank you for understanding.
The first criticism I will make concerns Foster’s level of training and equipment
readiness. The rest of the protest’s security team consisted largely of combat arms veterans. Most importantly, most of them were wearing NIJ rated Level IV body armor – more than enough to stop a .357 Magnum. Had Foster been similarly equipped, he may have lived. The lesson learned – get good plates, and if you’re going to be in a situation in which the risk of being shot is higher than normal, wear them. The second criticism I will make, however, is a responsibility partially shared by the same members of this team that were over a half a mile away to the south. Use the buddy system. Had another individual with a rifle been present to cover Foster as he walked over to Perry’s car to talk, it is possible that Perry would have been incapacitated before being able to kill Foster. This hypothetical second man could have stood nearby and observed for a weapon being drawn, and potentially stopped the threat before Foster was mortally wounded. The third criticism I will make is a lack of situational awareness on the part of Foster. The necessity of interacting with the public is often ignored in many circles. Think about how you look to the general public. Not only should you attempt to look professional, competent, prepared, and friendly, you should conduct yourselves in such a manner as to convey that message. In other words, the law-abiding, well to do John Q. should not see you as a potential threat – do not give anyone an excuse to hurt you. Make small talk to put them at ease, take care in handling of equipment and weapons when not actively engaging a threat, and remember to make your intentions clear – “We are Here to Help.” Further, when approaching a vehicle, do so from the rear of the passenger compartment, and speak to the occupants from about the 7 O’clock. This will make it difficult for them to engage you with a firearm, and it could buy you time to recognize a threat and, well, stop it. You should also move slowly, speak loudly and clearly, and keep your hands still. It will be very difficult for someone to explain to a judge and jury why they shot you when all you were doing was having a conversation. In a nutshell, put yourself in a tactically advantageous position, and if anyone is looking for a reason to shoot you, try not to give it to them. Our thoughts and prayers are, as always, with the family of Garrett Foster and all of those brutalized by their fellow man for the crime of exercising their inalienable rights. I hope that you, dear reader, can take these lessons written in blood and prevent it from happening to you. With regards, Ken.