Criminal JusticeIssuesLocal NewsAustin Homicide Investigator Accuses Travis County District Attorney of Criminal Witness Tampering

Detective David Fugitt accused District Attorney José Garza of witness tampering in the indictment of Sgt. Daniel Perry for murder.
August 4, 2021
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In an affidavit filed Tuesday, Austin Police Department (APD) Detective David Fugitt went to blows with Travis County District Attorney José Garza over his alleged tampering with Fugitt’s testimony in the prosecution of Army Sergeant Daniel Perry.

Last month, a grand jury indicted Perry for charges including murder, aggravated assault, and deadly conduct after he shot and killed Garrett Foster, a former Air Force mechanic who was protesting in downtown Austin at a Black Lives Matter demonstration on July 25, 2020.

Fugitt, who is spearheading the investigation into the incident in question, insisted that Garza quashed exculpatory evidence he planned to provide to the grand jury. He indicated that witness statements gathered by Foster’s relatives and their lawyers “were inconsistent with prior interviews” and video of portions of the incident.

With respect to a charge of threatening imminent bodily injury, Fugitt had also planned to say that the complaining witness “never once suggested that Daniel Perry” had threatened her by purposefully driving his vehicle in her direction.

According to the affidavit, Fugitt described an interaction he had with Assistant District Attorney Guillermo Gonzalez in which the detective had asked Gonzalez what “ramifications” there would be if he did not abide by the DA’s request to exclude the evidence favorable to Perry. Fugitt says the office merely told him again which evidence he was not to discuss in front of the grand jury.

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“In my mind, after this directive from José Garza, is when the conduct of the District Attorney’s Office [went] from highly unethical behavior to criminal behavior,” Fugitt deposed.

“I firmly believe the District Attorney’s Office, acting under the authority of José P. Garza, tampered with me as a witness.”

The detective added that he “was afforded no choice but to comply” after Garza and his employees gave their instructions to “tailor [Fugitt’s] grand jury presentation as directed.”

“I am familiar with the crime of witness tampering as set out in the Texas Penal Code and under the circumstances believe myself to be a victim of such tampering,” the detective emphasized, noting that he sought counsel from Assistant City Attorney Chris Coppola.

Perry has asserted that Foster pointed an AK-47 at him and Perry was forced to act to protect his life by shooting Foster in the chest to avoid injuring someone else. The defendant had been working as an Uber driver and happened upon the protest after finishing a trip, according to his lawyer at the time.

Perry has been represented by Attorney Clint Broden of Dallas, though Fugitt’s affidavit was announced on social media by O’Connell Law, an Austin-based firm.

When Broden raised allegations of witness tampering in court documents last month, Garza replied that Broden’s allegations are “inapposite, unnecessary, and unsupported,” but mostly declined to substantively respond citing grand jury secrecy concerns.

Fugitt’s claims occur during a time of political and tactical upheaval for APD as the police department lacks a sufficient number of officers with 163 vacant positions. The Austin City Council cut about $150 million from APD last year. A petition to place a referendum on the general election ballot to restore much of that funding and institute other reforms to bolster APD has received the required number of signatures.

District Attorney Garza won his office overwhelmingly on a progressive platform that included prioritizing bail guidelines that allow people accused of crimes to be freed on signature bonds if they could not afford to post bail. Garza has also proactively pursued cases against law enforcement officers for alleged misconduct.

The case against Perry is pending in Travis County’s 147th District Court before Democratic Judge Cliff Brown.

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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan. He has coached high school competitive speech and debate and has also been involved in community theater and politics. A native Texan, Hayden served as a delegate at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in 2016. He is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liberty University. In his free time, Hayden is known to take walks around the neighborhood while listening to random music on Spotify.