The U.S. Capitol Police officer who shot dead an unarmed woman inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 on Thursday defended his actions, claiming he issued verbal warnings before opening fire.
Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd said he shot Ashli Babbitt as she tried to climb through a broken window into the Speaker’s Lobby, adjacent to the House chamber, because he feared she and others inside the building would get into the chamber, where Congress members were hiding after the Capitol was breached.
“She was posing a threat to the United States House of Representatives,” Byrd said on NBC.
Byrd admitted he did not know Babbitt was unarmed.
“I could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack or what the intentions are,” Byrd said. “But they had shown violence leading up to that point,” he added.
That statement upset Aaron Babbitt, the husband of Ashli Babbitt.
“My agitation levels actually going through the roof right now, where he admitted he didn’t really care if she was armed or unarmed or not,” Aaron Babbitt said on Fox News after Byrd’s interview aired.
Video footage showed a number of officers inside the room that sits outside the Speaker’s Lobby, as well as others inside the lobby with Byrd. The Babbitt family lawyer has told The Epoch Times that the killing was “a pretty clear case of shooting an unarmed person without any legal justification.”
Federal authorities decided not to pursue charges against Byrd because they determined, following an investigation, that there was “insufficient evidence” to support a prosecution.
The Capitol Police said the officer “potentially saved Members and staff from serious injury and possible death from a large crowd of rioters who forced their way into the U.S. Capitol and to the House Chamber, where Members and staff were steps away.”
Byrd said he does not regret what he did.
“I know that day I saved countless lives,” Byrd said on Thursday. “I know members of Congress, as well as my fellow officers and staff, were in jeopardy and in serious danger. And that’s my job.”
Byrd’s identity had been shielded by the Capitol Police, which said it was not publicizing his name because of safety concerns. Byrd’s lawyer had said his client was receiving death threats.
Babbitt’s family had sued to learn his identity and plans to file a lawsuit charging that Byrd violated Babbitt’s constitutional rights.
Byrd’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment when asked why the officer chose to reveal his own identity.
Byrd said the threats include people saying they will kill him. Aaron Babbitt said he’s also received threats.
“I’ve been getting death threats since Jan. 7—two, three, five, 10 a day—and all I did on Jan. 6 was become a widower,” Babbitt said.