A Black Lives Matter protester was shot and killed on Saturday night after he attempted to aid his disabled girlfriend after a car reportedly drove into a crowd of demonstrators.
Garrett Foster, who is white, and girlfriend Whitney Mitchell, who is Black, were participating in the demonstration when the incident occurred around 10 p.m, The Dallas Morning News reports. A car approached the group of protesters where shots rang out. Foster, 28, who was struck three times, was escorted to a nearby hospital, where he later succumbed to his wounds.
According to The Dallas Morning News, various accounts differed. One stated that the car recklessly drove into the crowd, opening fire, while another account stated the car approached the group of protesters and honked the horn when they couldn’t drive through a crowded intersection. Other accounts claim Foster pointed his weapon at the car, with the driver firing back in self-defense.
Authorities believe that Foster was walking with an AK-47, but did not fire or point his weapon. Austin Police Chief Brian Manley confirmed that fire was returned in the altercation during a press conference over the weekend.
Friends of the couple say Foster jumped in front of Mitchell, 28, in order to protect her from the oncoming gunfire. Authorities arrested the driver of the car who cooperated with questioning, but they were later released.
Foster’s mother Sheila, appeared on Good Morning America, saying her son while senselessly shot while pushing his girlfriend in her wheelchair.
“And this gentleman got out of his car and started firing shots, and my son was shot three times,” she said.
She did not say whether or not he was carrying a rifle, but noted he had a license to carry. In Texas, it is legal to openly carry a rifle like an AK-47 without a license.
The couple have been dating since teenagers meeting in an online chatroom. Foster, who was in the military, rushed to be by Mitchell’s side during various hospitalizations where she almost lost her life to to septic shock. Doctors saved her life by amputating her arms and legs. Up until his death, he was Mitchell’s main caretaker.
After moving to Austin, Texas a few years ago, they became active members of protests surrounding race and police accountability in their community, especially within the last couple of weeks.
“I told her not to go. I was afraid something would happen,” said Patricia Kirven, Mitchell’s mother told The Dallas Morning News. “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.”
Protests have taken place in downtown Austin in Foster’s name, and a donation fund has raised $60,00. Meanwhile, his family weighs with how they will lay him to rest.
“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,” Sheila Foster said.