The Capitol Police officer responsible for the death of Ashli Babbitt during the January 6 Capitol riot revealed his identity on Thursday in an NBC News interview, expressing his half of the story and defending his actions.
Tasked with guarding 60-80 lawmakers that day, Lieutenant Michael Byrd told NBC host Lester Holt that the true level of threat was not yet known and the police in that room were reliant on police radio to gather a sense of what waited outside the door.
He claims to have heard radio reports of officers being downed, screams from other policemen attacked by chemical weapons, and reports of an officer who’s fingertips were allegedly blown off.
Given all that he heard on the radio, Byrd said to himself that “this is getting serious.”
Responding to radio chatter about an escalating situation, Byrd and his fellow officers inside the House chamber collected what furniture they could to barricade the doors. He says that they recognized their critical duty to protect the members of Congress.
Byrd describes how his throat was sore for days following the riot due to the amount of intense screaming at rioters to get away, but the rioters did not obey. When Babbitt tried to climb past the barricade, Byrd fired a single “last resort” shot that struck Babbitt. She died later in the hospital.
Byrd describes how his defensive, barricaded position prevented him and his fellow officers from seeing just how many people were attempting to enter, or whether any were wielding weapons. He said that he couldn’t see Babbitt’s hands and didn’t know what was in her backpack, and chose to escalate his use of force because the protesters “had shown violence” in the lead up to his encounter.
Babbitt, for the record, was unarmed.
Byrd dismissed any and all allegations that he had any political agenda, citing how he’s protected both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill for 28 years. He explained that he would have defended former President Trump in the same manner.
While Byrd’s name was kept secret by both the Department of Justice and the Capitol Police Department, several people identified him after reviewing video taken from the inside of the Capitol. Byrd claims that he’s already received multiple death threats.
The Babbitt family is suing the Capitol Police Department for $10 million on charges of wrongful death. The Babbitt’s attorney describes Byrd’s actions as an “ambush,” saying that Byrd hid in the House Chamber followed by “popping out and firing,” rather than pursuing less-than-lethal means of stopping Babbitt’s approach.
Author: Sheldon Parks