The U.S. Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during the Capitol riot publicly revealed his identity for the first time in an interview with NBC News released on Thursday.
Lieutenant Michael Byrd has been in hiding for months, after his name was leaked online and he began receiving death threats. Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran, died after Byrd shot her in the shoulder while she attempted to enter the House chamber, during a riot of supporters of former president Donald Trump who breached the Capitol on January 6 of this year.
Dozens of representatives and House staffers were in the House chamber when rioters entered the Capitol, and police including Byrd barricaded the entrance.
“Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were,” Byrd told NBC’s Lester Holt. “If they get through that door, they’re into the House chamber and upon the members of Congress.”
A group of rioters arrived at the entrance to the House chambers and began smashing the glass on the doors. Babbitt attempted to climb through a door, at which point Byrd shot her. Byrd said he did not know at the time that Babbitt was unarmed.
“I hoped and prayed no one tried to enter through those doors,” Byrd said. “But their failure to” pull back “required me to take the appropriate action to save the lives of members of Congress and myself and my fellow officers.”
Byrd added, “I know that day I saved countless lives. . . . I know members of Congress, as well as my fellow officers and staff, were in jeopardy and in serious danger.”
An internal investigation by the Capitol Police cleared Byrd of wrongdoing in the shooting.
“The actions of the officer in this case 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,” the Capitol Police announced at the conclusion of its investigation, announced on Monday.
Byrd’s lawyer, Mark Schamel, also said the officer’s use of force was “justified.”
“As shown by the extensive video footage and witness accounts of this violent riot, this was an absolutely justified use of force,” Schamel said on Monday in comments reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Members of Babbitt’s family said in June that they planned to sue for records that would reveal Byrd’s identity. The family’s lawyer, Terrell Roberts, said another planned suit would allege that the Capitol Police failed to “train, discipline and supervise the officer who killed Babbitt,” in an email to CNBC.