‘Insufficient Evidence’ of Excessive Force in Shooting Death of Ashli Babbitt, DOJ Report Says

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Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd produced no reports on his fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt and refused to give an official statement to investigators, but he agreed to a “voluntary debriefing” in which he stated if the “mob of rioters” outside the Speaker’s Lobby at the Capitol gained entry, “it wasn’t going to go well.”

Those details emerged on June 7 from more than 100 pages of records released by Judicial Watch from its 2021 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Records were released on the Judicial Watch website.

Some of the assertions in the report drew immediate fire from Ashli Babbitt’s husband and a witness to the shooting, who said the document gets a number of things wrong.

“If they can deem it a good shoot, they should be able to make everything public and explain exactly why–by the book–it was justified,” Aaron Babbitt told The Epoch Times.

Epoch Times Photo
U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd was in command of police in the U.S. House chamber on Jan. 6, 2021. (Judicial Watch)

“They should not have to be forced to produce half-redacted statements full of contradictory statements.”

Byrd shot Babbitt as she tried to climb through a broken-out window outside the U.S. House of Representatives Speaker’s Lobby on Jan. 6, 2021.

Ashli Babbitt, 35, of San Diego, was one of four supporters of then-president Donald Trump who died that day at the Capitol.

Police Staffing Was Half the Normal Level

The report contained several major revelations.

“Due to COVID-19 and other issues, the normal staffing for a joint session was less than half of what Lt. Byrd usually has assigned to the House Chamber,” the report said.

Byrd was in charge of Capitol Police operations in the House on Jan. 6.

There were no closed-circuit television (CCTV) security cameras that covered the hallway outside the Speaker’s Lobby, according to the report. Such cameras would have provided an elevated view of the chaos in the crowded area.

Byrd had “one prior use-of-force matter” that was sustained by Capitol Police, the report said, but Byrd appealed and prevailed before the agency’s Disciplinary Review Board.

“After a thorough review of the facts and circumstances in this case there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Lt. Byrd violated Ms. McEntee’s (sic) civil rights by willfully using more force than was reasonably necessary, or was not acting in self-defense or the defense of others,” read the undated 14-page document.

Although Byrd refused to give a formal statement to investigators, the DOJ concluded that his apparent belief that Babbitt posed an imminent, potentially deadly threat was “reasonable.”

Therefore DOJ officials recommended the U.S. Attorney not pursue charges of homicide, second-degree murder, or involuntary manslaughter in the shooting.

The DOJ announced its decision not to charge Byrd on April 14, 2021, in a three-sentence letter to the Metropolitan Police Department, which conducted the internal-affairs investigation of the shooting under an agreement with Capitol Police. Byrd was also cleared by Capitol Police and returned to duty.

Just prior to 2:45 p.m. on Jan. 6, Ashli Babbitt began climbing through the side window leading into the Speaker’s Lobby and was shot in the left anterior shoulder by Lt. Byrd. She was pronounced dead a half-hour later at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Ruled a Homicide

The DC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said the bullet “traveled left to right, causing injuries to blood vessels, her trachea, and her right lung, before lodging in the right anterior shoulder area,” the report said. “The manner of death was ruled a homicide.”

According to videos from the east side of the Speaker’s Lobby doors, Byrd had his Glock 22 pistol trained on the entrance before a Virginia man bashed out the side window that Babbitt would attempt to climb through moments later.

The shooting capped a wild five-minute period as rioters smashed out three of the four tempered-glass windows while a large group behind them chanted, “Break it down!”

Video shows two of the windows were destroyed by Zachary Alam, who used a black riot helmet to pound the glass. The third window fell out after being attacked with a wooden flagpole wielded by a man prosecutors identified as Chad Barrett Jones of Mount Washington, Kentucky.

Epoch Times Photo
Ashli Babbitt punched rioter Zachary Alam in the face just before she climbed out a broken window leading to the Speaker’s Lobby at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Sam Montoya/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

At least five men attacked the doors after three Capitol Police officers who had been guarding the entrance abandoned their post. The doors were barricaded on the other side by furniture. Two of those men remain unidentified and have not been arrested.

Prosecutors said Christopher Grider of Eddy, Texas, handed the black helmet to Alam and later tried to push the doors open with his shoulder.

“Because Ms. McEntee (sic) was an active participant in a ‘mob’ that had just illegally entered the Capitol building and then broke out the glass doors and removed barricades to forcefully gain entry into the Speaker’s Lobby, there is insufficient evidence to refute Lt. Byrd’s fear for his life or the life of others at the time he discharged his weapon,” read a justification memo prepared by the DOJ.

“Therefore, there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he willfully deprived Ms. McEntee of a right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States,” the report said, referring to Ashli Babbitt by her previous married name. She married Aaron Babbitt in 2019.

Byrd never prepared a use-of-force report on the shooting and refused to give a statement to internal-affairs detectives from the DC Metropolitan Police Department, the report said.

He did agree to a “voluntary debrief and walk-through of the scene” with his attorney on January 29, 2021, the report said.

Byrd “did recall writing a few sentences on an evidence bag the evening of Jan. 6, 2021, at the request of a crime scene officer,” a footnote in the report said. “To date, the bag has not been located by USCP or MPD.”

Epoch Times Photo
Ashli Babbitt pleads with police to call for backup at the Speaker’s Lobby doors on Jan. 6, 2021. (©Tayler Hansen/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Byrd said after he helped barricade the Speaker’s Lobby doors with furniture, there was a call over the radio for shots fired on the House floor. That report was later determined to be false.

Byrd drew his pistol and “took a tactical position behind a wall in the Speaker’s Lobby, and started yelling at the mob of rioters to ‘get back!’ ” the report said. Video shot in the hallway did not pick up any such statements.

Byrd Saw Babbitt as a Threat

“Lt. Byrd then saw a rioter with a backpack on start to climb through one of the broken glass doors,” the DOJ report said. “Lt. Byrd saw the rioter ‘as a threat,’ so he stepped forward from his tactical position and fired one round at the rioter.”

Byrd “knew that if the mob of rioters got into the Speaker’s Lobby, it ‘wasn’t going to go well,’ and he knew that he and the other officers had to do everything they could to stop the rioters from entering the Speaker’s Lobby,” the report said.

Ashli Babbitt spent the previous five minutes shouting at protesters to stop vandalizing the doors, contradicting earlier media reports that she participated in the attack on the entrance, according to an analysis of videos shot by three men in the hallway.

After Alam punched one of the windows, Ashli Babbitt tried to get in between him and Officer Christopher Lanciano.

The video shows she said something to Alam, but he brushed her off. Alam then cranked up his right arm and punched the window behind Lanciano’s left shoulder. Within a few seconds, Ashli Babbitt blew up at Sgt. Timothy Lively, Officer Kyle Yetter, and Lanciano for allowing the violence and vandalism.

“Call [expletive] help!” Ashli Babbitt shouted, jumping up and down in front of the police. “We’re allowed to be here!”

She took a couple of steps back. There was no visible reaction from the police, sparking her anger. “You’re a fraud!” she shouted. “You’re a [expletive] fraud! You’re wrong!”

Ashli Babbitt continued to shout at Alam and others to stop hitting the doors. When Alam knocked out the northernmost window with the helmet, she advanced, grabbed him and punched him in the nose. She then climbed into the window and was shot.

Epoch Times Photo
Aaron Babbitt with his wife Ashli, who was killed at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Courtesy Aaron Babbitt)

Aaron Babbitt said after watching all the available videos, he believes his wife felt trapped in a chaotic, deteriorating situation and decided the open window was her only means of escape.

That conclusion seems to be supported by comments in the report by Sgt. Lively, who said he told his officers to abandon the doors or they “were going to get trapped here.”

Some assertions in the documents released by Judicial Watch are at odds with video evidence in the case.

Jason Gandolph of the Office of the House Sergeant at Arms said that he “observed Ms. McEntee (sic) participate in breaking the glass to the doors,” the report said.

Videos from independent journalists Tayler Hansen and Sam Montoya, and activist John Sullivan, show Ashli Babbitt never touched the doors before attempting to climb out the window.

“There’s zero evidence from three different angles that Ashli broke any glass,” Aaron Babbitt told The Epoch Times. “She was behind the bad actors the whole time.”

Gandolph said, “the demonstrators were unruly, and the USCP officers were unsuccessful in stopping the demonstrators from proceeding to the doorway that led into the Speaker’s Lobby,” according to the report.

Cellphone video shot by Hansen shows he and Babbitt were the first people to approach the officers in the hallway.

Hansen commented on the heavy coating of fire retardant sprayed on the officers earlier in the day. He then offered them bottled water, the video shows.

The officers did not make any move to keep crowds out of the hallway.

The report claims Officer Lanciano shoved Babbitt back when she was in the front of the group. None of the three videos reviewed by The Epoch Times shows police contact with Ashli Babbitt.

Hansen said the errors in the report brought him to tears. He called the report “the definition of a government coverup.”

“She didn’t touch a single door once. She didn’t touch a single window,” Hansen told The Epoch Times. “She wasn’t violent, except hitting Alam in the face to try and get him to stop breaking the windows, which I will classify as the right thing to do.

“… The thing that choked me up and got me was they lied about the officer immediately rendering aid, when Ashli is clearly lying there choking on her own blood for a minute before anyone is touching her. We were the ones that had to render aid.”

Joseph M. Hanneman

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Joseph M. Hanneman is a reporter for The Epoch Times with a focus on the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol incursion and its aftermath; and general news in the State of Wisconsin. His work over a nearly 40-year career has appeared in Catholic World Report, the Racine Journal Times, the Wisconsin State Journal and the Chicago Tribune. Reach him at: joseph.hanneman@epochtimes.us



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