A motorist who shot and killed a rifle-toting protester, and another protester who then fired on the motorist, were both released from custody Sunday as police in Austin, Texas, worked to piece together the deadly chaos.
Garrett Foster, 28, was mortally wounded as gunfire rang out during the Black Lives Matter march on Saturday night. Police nearby tried to resuscitate him but he died at the hospital.
“I saw his face. I don’t know how far away I was from Garrett. It felt like I was right there. He was just trying to hold on to his life,” organizer and witness James Sasinowski told KXAN.
As demonstrators held a vigil near the shooting scene and began raising funds for Foster’s fiancée, a quadruple amputee who also was at the protest, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley gave an update on the investigation.
He said that as the car in question tried to make a turn through the crowd, protesters began hitting the vehicle—and Foster, carrying an AK-47-style rifle, walked up to the driver’s side.
“His account is that Mr. Foster pointed the weapon directly at him and he fired his weapon at Mr. Foster,” Manley said, though he noted that police had been given varying versions of what happened.
As the driver sped off, another person in the crowd pulled out a pistol and opened fire at the vehicle, Manley said.
The motorist pulled over a short distance away and said he had been involved in a shooting, and officers took him and the second gunman in for questioning.
Police are consulting with prosecutors about possible charges and are appealing for more witnesses to come forward with their account or with video of the confrontation. An autopsy for Foster is scheduled for Monday.
“We are heartbroken by the loss of Mr. Foster last night,” Manley said. “It is actively being investigated.”
Foster’s mother, Sheila, told ABC’s Good Morning America that he and his fiancée, Whitney Mitchell, had taken part in Austin’s anti-racism protests almost every night for the last two months.
She said that based on witnesses who spoke to her, she believes the driver was the aggressor.
“Garrett was pushing Whitney through an intersection and this gentlemen got out of his car and started firing shots, and my son was shot three times,” she said.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler placed the blame on the presence and prevalence of firearms.
“In a split moment, three guns were drawn, eight shots were fired, and a protester was tragically killed,” he tweeted. “This is horrible as is all gun violence. There are too many guns. Our City is shaken and, like so many in our community, I’m heartbroken and stunned.”