A memorial for a Black Lives Matter advocate who was killed during a march in Austin over the weekend has been vandalized and coated with white paint.
Garrett Foster was shot dead on Saturday evening after he confronted a motorist who had driven his vehicle toward a hundred-strong crowd of protesters marching in the city center, blaring his horn.
The 28-year-old former Air Force mechanic, who was carrying an AK-47, was shot three times and later died. Prior to his death, Foster had marched alongside his wheelchair bound fiancée, Whitney Mitchell, in the city for more than 50 consecutive nights.
In the days since his death, several memorials have cropped up across the city in tribute to Foster. One of the memorials, located near to the intersection of 4th & Congress Avenue where he lost his life, was defaced by a man on Tuesday morning.
The individual was seen knocking over dozens of candles and flowers, ripping up cards, and dousing the white paint across the tribute.
The culprit, Don Gato, later identified himself on TikTok after uploading a number of videos to his page @homelesswithaniphone, which he operates under the pseudonym Whiter Liar.
In several of the videos, Gato is seen bragging about his act of vandalism and calls Foster a ‘terrorist’ who he says was ‘rightfully and legally euthanized’.
Earlier this week, Gato uploaded a short video showing several cans of white paint, asking his followers ‘do you think this is enough paint to f*** up a Black Lives Matter mural in downtown Austin? Because I’ve got more.’
In a second video published Monday, Gato says he was in the downtown area when he came across the corner where Foster was ‘rightfully and legally euthanized’.
‘They had candles and a bunch of junk trying to martyr him,’ he said. ‘On Monday morning … I plowed through that s*** and f***ed those candles – and I’ll do it again.’
Gato then uploaded a video of him returning to the site on Tuesday morning, ripping up bouquets of flowers left for Foster, and tearing down a number of signs – one reading ‘Power to the People’ – at the memorial.
Text overlayed over the footage reads: ‘Go Pro wasn’t on when I tossed the paint. 10 gallons wasn’t enough paint – sewage next time.’
Towards the end of the clip, Gato is seen tipping the remnants of a bucket of white paint over a collection of candles and flowers.
Pictures captured at the scene by DailyMail.com show the extent of the damaged caused by Gato. Photographs and portraits of Foster are seen covering in specks of white paint, and petals and flower stems strewn across the sidewalk.
A handful of Samaritans were seen cleaning up the memorial and loading damaged items into trash bags just before 2pm on Tuesday afternoon. They also began scrubbing the white paint off of the ground.
Gato, meanwhile, has responded to a number of viewers of the clip in a series posts to Tik Tok, answering questions and points raised by those outraged by his actions.
After one viewer called him ‘really stupid’, Gato responded by filming himself saying: ‘Well I may be stupid but I can’t be really stupid because I didn’t point a gun at someone and get shot full of holes like a f***ing dumba**,’ appearing to mock Foster’s death.
Responding to a second viewer who questioned if he was ‘seriously destroying someone’s mural’, Gato responded, ‘Yeah I am. I joined Black Lives Matter and I’m a card carrying Antifa member – and it’s okay. In fact [Foster] deserved it – just ‘cause.’
A spokesperson for the Austin Police Department told DailyMail.com that not investigation is being carried out, as the flowers, candles and signs left at the memorial are considered ‘abandoned property’, and therefore ‘no crime has taken place.’
It’s currently unclear whether Gato could be charged with vandalism for throwing paint on the sidewalk.
Foster, 28, was shot dead on the evening of July 25 after he confronted the driver of a car who had driven his vehicle toward a hundred-strong crowd of protesters marching through the center of Austin.
He had been crossing 4th Street and Congress Avenue with his with his wheel-chair bound fiancee Whitney Mitchell, 28, in the moments prior, on what would prove to be the couple’s 50th and final night of protesting in the city.
Foster, who was carrying an AK-47, was shot three times by the driver who then fled the scene. The motorist later told police he fired his handgun at Foster after the activist pointed his assault rifle at his car.
A photograph obtained by DailyMail.com shows Foster standing at the driver’s window moments before the fatal shots rang out. The barrel of his AK-47 appears to be pointing towards the floor, however he is leaning towards the car with right arm raised and his hand seemingly placed around the weapon’s grip.
Police, who declined to identify the driver, have released the suspect as they continue their investigation.
Witnesses, however, say that Foster never raised the barrel of his gun toward the driver and was not intimidating him. They say the car swerved towards them and Foster has jumped in front of Mitchell, a quadruple amputee, fearing she was a target.
Bystander James Sasinowski told CNN that the driver was not defending himself from violence when he shot Foster, and instead said he’d been the instigator of it.
Sasinowski said the driver ‘intentionally and aggressively accelerated their vehicle into a crowd of people’ prior to the shots ringing out.
‘I want to be very clear that the driver incited the violence — he accelerated into the crowd of people and he shot first,’ Sasinowski told the network.
Witnesses gave conflicting accounts of what happened in the moments before the shooting, including that the disturbance began when the vehicle started honking its horn, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said.
Witnesses also told police that Foster approached the car with an AK-47 assault-style rifle while others in the crowd began striking the vehicle.
Sasinowski said he couldn’t be certain if Foster ever raised his weapon at the driver, adding that he hasn’t heard any other witnesses saying that happened – contrary to the Austin PD’s claims.
One thing Sasinowski says he was certain of, though, is that the driver initiated the encounter.
‘This was intentional. It was aggressive and he accelerated into a crowd of protesters,’ Sasinowski said. ‘He could have waited for us to pass or he could have gone slowly. We would have allowed him to go through.’
Police responded to the scene just after 9:50pm when the driver dialed 911 after fleeing, telling a dispatcher he had ‘shot someone who had approached their driver’s window and pointed a rifle at them.’
Police declined to say why the driver was where he was and whether his intent was nefarious.
Foster, who did not fire his weapon, received first aid at the scene before being transported to Dell Seton Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead an hour later.
The 28-year-old was originally from Plano but had been living with Mitchell in Austin for the last two years. His mother Sheila said her son had been participating in the Black Lives Matter protests for 50 days in support of Mitchell, who is African-American.
The couple began dating just over a decade ago, having first met in an online chat room and became engaged a year later.
The following month, Mitchell was struck down by a mysterious illness and later had to have all four of her limbs amputated following sepsis.
Foster had to leave for basic training two months later but was discharged from the Air Force, aged 19, to become her full time carer.
‘That time when he was gone [for basic training] was so detrimental to both of them, because they were very much in love, and he had cared for her so well,’ his aunt Karen Sourber told USA Today. ‘He’s been her primary caretaker ever since. He just loved her unconditionally and took care of everything.’
Hundreds gathered at the scene of the shooting on Sunday evening to mourn Foster’s death in a vigil led by Mitchell.
Shelia Foster said her son had been demonstrating for consecutive nights for nearly two months because ‘he felt really strongly about justice and he was very heavily against police brutality.’
Crediting her late son as ‘one of the best young men you would ever know’, Shelia also tearfully recounted the unconditional love Foster had for Mitchell.
‘I saw my son at 19 years old brush this girl’s teeth, comb her hair. He would put her on the toilet and clean her up, and he would make sure that she got bathed and make sure that she was able to get dressed and took her everywhere that she needed to go. And he’s been doing that ever since,’ Sheila told GMA.
‘On top of grieving for my son, I worry about Whitney. Because who’s going to do that for her now?’ she continued. ‘She just lost the love of her life, because somebody just randomly fired shots and killed my son. And I don’t mean to say that anybody else’s life is less valuable. I don’t believe that. But I don’t know why it had to be my son.’
The couple were planning on getting married, but were waiting until Mitchell mastered her prosthetics before they walked down the aisle.
Mitchell’s mother, Patricia Kirven, told the Dallas Morning News she warned her daughter about going to the protests, because she was ‘afraid something would happen.’
‘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,’ Kirven added.