The wheelchair-bound fiancee of a Black Lives Matter protester who was shot dead in Texas on Saturday night has led a tearful vigil at the spot where he was killed.
Whitney Mitchell, 28, choked back tears as she led hundreds of marchers through downtown Austin on Sunday to the street were Garrett Foster, also 28, was killed.
Foster was shot three times as he approached a vehicle with an AK-47 slung across his chest during a march in the city on Saturday night.
Protesters – who have been marching for 60 days – say the car swerved towards them and Foster was trying to protect Mitchell, who was left wheelchair-bound after a mystery infection forced surgeons to amputate her limbs.
Whitney Mitchell, 28, led Black Lives Matter protesters in a vigil march for finace Garrett Foster, also 28, who was shot and killed during demonstrations in Austin, Texas, on Saturday night
Mitchell choked back tears as marchers held a moment of silence on the street where Foster was shot and killed as he approached the driver of a vehicle who opened fire
Protesters say Foster (pictured left with Mitchell, and right together on the night he was killed) was trying to protect Mitchell after a car drove towards them – but the driver has claimed he shot in self defense after Foster pointed a rifle at him
Mitchell – who had all four of her limbs amputated in 2010 after contracting a mystery virus – was supported by members of the crowd as she held a vigil on the spot where Foster died
Other members of the crowd embraced and some broke down in tears as protesters chanted ‘say his name, Garrett Foster’ during the Sunday-night vigil
Marchers carried signs reading ‘Justice for Garrett’ and laid them at the spot where he died along with candles and flower. Police have interviewed the man who shot Foster, but have released him pending further investigation
Protesters knee and raise their fists in a silent tribute to Foster, who was fatally shot in downtown Austin on Saturday night
Foster, who had been in the military for a time before becoming his fiancee’s carer, had been participating in marches for more than 50 days when he was killed (pictured, protesters honor his memory with a silent tribute)
A protester carries a sign reading ‘I can’t breathe’ with a noose around their neck during a vigil for Garrett Foster in Austin
But the driver, who has contacted police and has not been identified, says he shot in self-defense after Foster pointed his rifle directly at him.
Both the driver and another protester who shot at his car with a handgun as he drove away have been questioned by police but released pending further investigation.
Marchers chanted ‘say his name, Garrett Foster’ and raised their fists in a silent tributes during the vigil, KVUE reported.
Mitchell, who had been engaged to Foster since she was 18, closed her eyes as she held back her emotions and was comforted by other members of the crowd.
Some people embraced and wept as marchers blocked off streets with bikes and cones, and began directing traffic away.
Others carried signs reading ‘rest in power Garrett Foster’ and ‘justice for Garrett’. They were laid at the spot where he died, along with candles and flowers.
Following the vigil, the sea of protesters made their way to the Texas State Capitol to finish the march that had been disrupted the night before.
Foster’s mother Sheila said her son had been participating in the Black Lives Matter protests for more than 50 days in support of Mitchell, who is African-American.
She added: ‘He was doing it because he felt really strongly about justice and he was very heavily against police brutality.’
Foster had served in the military for a time, but left in order to take care of Mitchell after she fell sick with what initially appeared to be flu in November 2010.
Whitney Mitchell chokes back tears as she takes part in a vigil for her fiance, Garrett Foster, who was shot dead in Austin
Two attendees embrace at a vigil for Garrett Foster, who was shot and killed after a chaotic altercation with a motorist who allegedly drove into the crowd
A woman clutching flowers breaks down in tears during a vigil for Garrett Foster in downtown Austin
Protesters raise their fists and a sign reading ‘I can’t breathe’ in tribute to Garrett Foster in downtown Austin, Texas
Mitchell’s condition quickly worsened and she landed in intensive care, where the virus caused circulation to her limbs to shut down.
Doctors were able to save her, but only after amputating all of her limbs in order to stop them turning septic, the Dallas Morning News reported.
After the operation, Mitchell took up sewing as a form of therapy, before turning it into a career designing and making clothes. Foster worked full-time as her carer.
The couple had put the business on hold for the past several weeks, Mitchell’s mother Patricia Kirven said, so that they could attend the protests.
Foster often went armed, which is common at protests in Texas because it is an open-carry state.
Before he was fatally shot, Foster was seen speaking to local media about why he was carrying his AK-47.
In video shot by a local independent journalist, he says: ‘They don’t let us march in the streets anymore so gotta practice some of our rights.’
Austin Police Chief Brian Manley confirmed that Foster was carrying a rifle when he approached the vehicle that the person suspected of shooting him was in.
Manley said the suspect shot out of their car at Foster and then called 911 to report that they had shot someone who pointed a gun at their vehicle.
The suspect, who has not been named publicly, was arrested following the shooting and later released on Sunday as the incident remains under investigation.
Sheila Foster, Garrett’s mother, said she was told her son was pushing his fiancee, who uses a wheelchair, through an intersection when the suspect was driving ‘erratically’ through the crowd.
She said she was told the driver shot her son three times.
Following the vigil, protesters continued to march on the Texas State Capitol to finish the demonstration which was cut short by Foster’s death
Demonstrators march on the Texas State Capital in Austin as part of Black Lives Matter demonstrations which have now been ongoing for 60 days
Activists including Whitney Mitchell, the wheelchair-bound fiancee of Garrett Foster, take part in a sit-in demonstration in downtown Austin on Sunday night
People sit in the street at a vigil for Garrett Foster on July 26, 2020 in downtown Austin, Texas
Black Lives Matter protests have been taking place in cities across the US for weeks in response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who suffocated while being arrested in Minneapolis in May.
They have since expanded to call for wholesale reform of the US justice system, including defunding police services and reinvesting in struggling communities.
Tensions have been rising in recent weeks after the Trump administration deployed federal agents to try and force marchers off the streets, most visibly in Portland, Oregon.
Police are now investigating a shooting in that city which left one person wounded after witnesses said a fight broke out between several armed individuals.
The Portland Police Department confirmed that two people had been taken into custody following the incident and said one person was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.
In Alexandria, Virginia, protesters flocked to the home of Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to decry the deployment of federal officers in cities including Portland, Seattle and Oakland.
The protest was organized by ShutDownDC, a group which considers Wolf to be responsible for the actions of the federal agents and is demanding that they be removed from every city in the US.
In Seattle, another city with a large presence of federal agents, thousands of people took to the streets of the Capitol Hill neighborhood on Sunday afternoon for largely peaceful protest.
Marchers carry a Back Lives Matter banner through the streets of Austin, Texas, during a march on Sunday night
People hold up signs outside Austin Police Department after a vigil for Garrett Foster on July 26, 2020 in downtown Austin
Protesters walk down 7th street in Austin after a vigil for Garrett Foster
Tensions between protesters and police officers reached a boiling point hours earlier as the latter group retreated into a precinct station after midnight following large demonstrations in the area surrounding the Capitol.
Some demonstrators lingered after officers filed into the department’s East Precinct at around 1am, but most cleared out a short time later, according to video posted online.
Rocks, bottles, fireworks and mortars were fired at police during the weekend unrest, and police said they arrested at least 45 people for assaults on officers, obstruction and failure to disperse.
Twenty-one officers were hurt, with most of their injuries considered minor, police said.
Meanwhile hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Los Angeles for a march in solidarity with the people of Portland on Sunday.
The marchers carried signs attacking the actions of federal protesters on the ground in US cities, as well as repeated pleas to defund LA’s own police department.
Sunday’s march shut down a major roadway in the heart of the city but remained peaceful as police kept a safe distance.