Capitol cop who shot rioter Ashli Babbitt dead DEFENDS his actions saying he ‘saved countless lives’
The Capitol police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during the January 6 Capitol riot has claimed his actions showed ‘utmost courage’ and that he ‘saved countless lives.’
Speaking hours after he was publicly identified for the first time, Lt Michael Byrd went on the defensive during an interview with NBC News star Lester Holt Thursday.
Explaining his decision to finally come forward, Byrd – 28-year veteran of the force – said: ‘I showed the utmost courage on January 6, and its time for me to do that now.’
Referring to the 60 to 80 members of Congress trapped by the riot, he 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. And that’s my job,’ Lt. Byrd said.
Byrd said he had no idea if the person he shot was carrying a weapon. It was only later that night that he found out the rioter was a woman who was unarmed.
‘I was taking a tactical stance. You’re ultimately hoping that your commands will be complied with, and ultimately they were not,’ Byrd said.
During an emotional interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Lt. Michael Byrd of the Capitol police, he explained why he came forward for the first time: ‘I showed the utmost courage on January 6, and its time for me to do that now’
Babbitt’s family’s lawyer has argued he never gave commands. He told Holt during the interview he yelled multiple times, ‘Stop. Get back.’
Then he fired a single fatal gunshot, striking Babbitt in the neck, ‘as a last resort.’
‘You’re taught to aim for center mass the subject was sideways, and I could not see the full motion of her hands or anything so I guess her movement caused the discharge to fall where it did,’ Byrd said.
‘I tried to wait as long as I could. I hoped and prayed no one tried to enter through those doors.
‘But their failure to comply required me to take the appropriate action to save the lives of members of Congress and myself and my fellow officers.’
Asked for his thoughts on Donald Trump calling Ashli Babbit’s death a ‘murder,’ Byrd said: ‘It’s disheartening, if he was in the room or anywhere and I was responsible for him, I was prepared to do the same for him.’
Officers tried to keep the January 6 rioters back but Byrd said they ignored commands
Babbitt was the only person killed on January 6, and Byrd was the only officer to fire his service weapon.
When asked why, he said, ‘I’m sure it was a terrifying situation. And I can only control my reaction, my training, my expertise. That would be upon them to speak for themselves.’
Byrd was also grilled over a previous blunder which saw him leave his service weapon in a Capitol bathroom.
He said: ‘It was a terrible mistake, I acknowledged it, I owned up to it, I accepted the responsibility, I was penalized for it, and I moved on.’
Byrd’s decision to go public comes within days of his department announcing that he had been officially been exonerated and four months after it was announced he would face no criminal charges from the Department of Justice.
To date no details of either the criminal or the internal police inquiry have been published.
Republican figures have long demanded that he be named.
DailyMail.com can reveal the Capitol Hill cop who shot dead Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt on January 6, is 28-year police veteran Lieutenant Michael Byrd (pictured earlier this year)
Babbitt (pictured) a 35-year-old Air Force veteran from San Diego, was shot by the police lieutenant when she tried to climb through a door with the glass smashed out as she and others in the mob pressed to get into the Speaker’s Lobby outside the House chamber
Michael Byrd is seen in the Capitol during the riots with his gun drawn. Capitol Police have concluded that he acted lawfully and in line with department policy, and will not face any internal discipline
‘Who was the person who shot an innocent, wonderful, incredible woman?’ Donald Trump asked in June.
And Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar said on July 6: ‘Six months ago today, Ashli Babbitt, a 110-pound woman with nothing in her hands, not a rock, not a stick or a bat, was shot dead by a still unknown Capitol Hill police officer.’
Following Byrd’s decision to speak out, DailyMail.com has decided it is time to publish the name of the officer who – unlike virtually all his colleagues nationwide who have made the split-second decision to shoot – has been allowed to hide behind his badge.
NBC News announced Byrd’s decision to talk just over 24 hours before the interview is set to air.
‘Speaking out and revealing his identity publicly for the first time, the officer will share his perspective on the events of that day, including the aftermath of the deadly insurrection and the threats he has received,’ NBC said in a press release.
‘He will also discuss the recent news that Capitol Police will not discipline him following an internal review, exonerating him for use of force.’
DailyMail.com has known Byrd’s identity for months, but has not revealed it over fears for his safety. But now he has made the decision to speak out publicly on national television.
DailyMail.com has known Byrd’s identity for months, but has not revealed it over fears for his safety. He has now chosen to speak publicly on national television
Byrd and his wife were spotted by DailyMail.com as they shopped near their home 30 minutes outside of Washington, DC, in February
Byrd’s name has been withheld for months, despite the identities of many other cops involved in fatal shootings being released
The married grandfather and father-of-two has been widely hailed a hero for ‘preventing a massacre’ but has not been publicly named
‘Quite a turn-around, given the months of constantly saying that to identify him would expose him to danger. Where did that one go?’ Ashli’s family attorney Terrell N. Roberts, III remarked to Dailymail.com.
Babbitt’s family has said the secrecy over his identity has stymied its attempts to find out more about her death.
Her widower Aaron Babbitt filed a lawsuit claiming the Metropolitan Police Department failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request either to provide or deny his request for information.
‘Somebody in D.C. knows, I think a lot of people know, but nobody is telling us. And the silence is deafening,’ Babbitt told Fox News’s Tucker Carlson in March.
‘I never expected to lose my wife to political violence,’ he added.
Byrd, 53, shot Babbitt in the shoulder as she tried to climb through a window into the Speaker of the House’s lobby during the riot by Trump supporters.
The rioters had invaded the Capitol in a bid to prevent the certification of the results of the presidential election in which Joe Biden defeated Trump by 306 electoral college votes to 232.
In April, Officer Nicholas Reardon was named within a day of fatally firing four shots at knife-wielding 16-year-old Ma’khia Bryant
Cops had warned her to stop, but she pressed forward before Byrd shot her.
She was taken to the hospital where she later died.
Father-of-two Byrd’s actions were deemed lawful by the Department of Justice, which said in April there was no evidence to support a criminal prosecution. In that announcement, the department did not identify him.
Following an internal review, Capitol Police announced on Monday that he will not be disciplined.
‘USCP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) determined the officer’s conduct was lawful and within Department policy, which says an officer may use deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes that action is in the defense of human life, including the officer’s own life, or in the defense of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury,’ Capitol Police said in a statement.
But dozens of other officers who have shot people, either with justification or not, have been identified publicly immediately after the incidents.
In April, Officer Nicholas Reardon was named within a day of fatally firing four shots at knife-wielding 16-year-old Ma’khia Bryant as she charged at two women in Columbus. Ohio. Basketball superstar LeBron James later tweeted Reardon’s picture with the words ‘You’re next.’
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Bryant’s death underscored the systemic racism in the nation’s policing.
Also in April, Kim Potter was named as the officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. She says she mistakenly drew her gun instead of her Taser.
And Eric Stillman was identified as the Chicago cop who fatally shot 13-year-old Adam Toledo during a foot chase in March.
Babbit died after Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building following his rally on January 6, when he urged them to walk to Congress
The US Capitol Police on Monday announced that the officer who shot and killed Babbitt has been cleared of any wrongdoing
The release of shocking bodycam footage of the incident and the officer’s name led to unrest in the city, prompting Mayor Lori Lightfoot to call for calm.
But authorities have consistently refused to release Byrd’s identity and even now it is only becoming known because of his own decision. U.S. Capitol Police have not held a single briefing on Babbitt’s death.
Babbitt’s attorney Terrell Roberts told DailyMail.com: ‘In every case I’ve known of a police shooting, the officers have been named. I don’t know of one where they haven’t been named. ‘These police officers are regarded as public officials. They’re acting for the government and there should be public accountability. The public has a right to know.’
He called the decision not to reveal Byrd’s identity as ‘a blatant double-standard’ that impedes the family’s attempts to find out more about Babbitt’s death.
Roberts appeared alongside Aaron Babbitt on Fox News. ‘I don’t know, but I think one of the reasons they are hiding his identity they don’t have a good reason for this shooting,’ he told Carlson.
‘If Ashli Babbitt had been brandishing a firearm and she was shot, the officer would be identified by now and pinning a medal on him,’ Roberts said. ‘So I don’t think we have an explanation for the shooting and that’s why they have not identified him.’
Roberts correctly said that the officer involved in the shooting was the same one who made headlines in 2019 for leaving his loaded gun in a Capitol restroom. Byrd was identified as that officer at the time.
Byrd joined the Capitol Police in 1993 and has been regularly assigned to the Speaker’s Lobby, the highly-restricted waiting area behind the House chamber that Babbitt and others were attempting to breach.
He and his colleagues barricaded a set of glass doors with furniture to halt the mob’s advance while lawmakers were being evacuated, but rioters smashed the windows with flagpoles and helmets.
Ashli Babbitt was married to Aaron, who served as a Marine from 2000 to 2005
Aaron Babbitt told Tucker Carlson on Monday that he still hasn’t been told the identity of the officer who shot dead his wife Ashli during the Capitol riots
Babbitt’s attorney Terrell Roberts (right) told Tucker Carlson he believes the officer responsible for Ashli’s death is the same one who made headlines for leaving his loaded gun in a public restroom inside the Capitol in 2019
Then, in a chaotic, blood-curdling confrontation caught on cellphone video, Babbitt, unarmed and wearing a Trump flag as a cape, climbed up to squeeze through the opening.
The footage showed Byrd darting out of a corridor as she was ready to jump down, shooting her in the left shoulder from a few feet. Babbitt, 35, an Air Force veteran from San Diego, slumped to the floor in a pool of blood.
She was rushed to the hospital but died later that day. Capitol Hill Police chiefs announced in a statement the next day that the officer who fired at Babbitt had been placed on leave pending an independent inquiry into his use of lethal force by the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police. But in stark contrast to high-profile incidents across the country, both departments ignored federal government guidance urging transparency in officer-involved shootings and declined to name Byrd.
Babbitt’s family have filed a civil lawsuit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia earlier this month against the Metropolitan Police Department
Their decision backfired weeks later when a completely different African American officer was wrongly named as the gunman by mistaken alt-right sleuths.
That officer, who was the recipient of a bravery award for protecting lawmakers during the June 2017 Congressional baseball shooting, was subject to threats and abuse after his details were posted online.
But Acting Sergeant at Arms Timothy Blodgett, the chief law enforcement officer for the House, let slip the name ‘officer Byrd’ while giving congressional testimony about the riots on February 25.
In the same hearing, Virginia Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton singled out the Capitol Police for particular criticism, saying the 2,000-strong force, which is exempt from Freedom of Information laws because it’s part of the legislative branch, was ‘notoriously opaque.’
‘You guys have had zero public press conferences in your department in the nearly two months since the attack,’ Wexton fumed.
When DailyMail.com asked for confirmation of Byrd’s involvement, Thomas DiBiase, General Counsel for the Capitol Police, wrote back requesting that we ‘refrain’ from naming the officer involved ‘until the conclusion of the ongoing investigation,’ citing ‘threats a number of Capitol Police officers have received in connection with the events of January 6th.’
That investigation wrapped in April and Byrd when cleared.
DailyMail.com consulted experts in police transparency who said the public’s right to know outweighed Byrd’s right to privacy.
Amye Bensenhaver, director of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition and a former assistant state attorney general, said: ‘While the lives of the officers and their families are no doubt adversely impacted by disclosure of their names, I genuinely believe the public’s interest is superior.
Babbitt is seen on the ground wounded after being shot by Capitol Police. Babbitt’s death has conversely been attacked as an ‘execution’ by supporters on the far right, who hailed the unarmed servicewoman a martyr to Trump’s cause
‘In the case of the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in March 2020 the names of the officers were almost immediately made public. ‘The public has a right to know when a police officer is accused, investigated, disciplined, and even exonerated of an alleged breach of the public trust.’
Seattle-based civil rights attorney Ed Budge said police should not have a ‘monopoly’ on information.
‘I feel for officers who are involved in justified shootings. But on the other hand they’re public servants, and when you work as a public servant, the things you do in service of the citizens is something that needs to be revealed,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘It’s just as important for the family in cases that involve potential police brutality to have full and complete access to information as it is for the department itself to have that information.
‘There is action that needs to be taken in order to preserve evidence, to interview witnesses, so that family members have an opportunity to present their case to an attorney.’
Family man Byrd, a grandfather, lives about 30 minutes outside of Washington D.C., with his wife Kaleska, 51, who runs a children’s daycare from their smart suburban home and previously worked for the Capitol Police as a security aide.
When a DailyMail.com reporter called at their home a male voice said over the intercom: ‘There is nobody by that name living here.’
Byrd appears to have enjoyed an unblemished career until an incident when he left his loaded service weapon in a bathroom in February 2019.
The Glock-22 was found hours later by another Capitol Police officer performing a routine security sweep of the Capitol Visitor Center complex.
Making the mistake all the more egregious, Byrd’s particular model of pistol did not feature a safety catch to prevent it being fired by accident, according to a report by the political website Roll Call.
‘The Department takes these matters very seriously, and has a very thorough process to investigate and review incidents such as these, and holds personnel accountable for their actions,’ Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki said at the time.
Byrd retained his rank and it is unclear whether he faced any further action as the Capitol Police’s exemption from FOIA laws means they are not required to hand over disciplinary records.
The department’s salary records have not been public since 2002 when Byrd earned $11,719 in ten weeks — equating to an annual salary of $56,252 — nearly as much as the average police lieutenant makes today in Washington, D.C.
Capitol Police officers attend the Capitol Police Training Academy in Cheltenham, Maryland and earn around $25,000 more than their counterparts in regular police departments.
Much of Byrd’s online presence has been removed since the shooting but the one remaining profile says he specializes in federal law enforcement, counterterrorism, counterintelligence and surveillance. His attorney Mark Schamel has defended the veteran officer — without naming him — in several media interviews.
He insists Byrd’s split-second decision to take out Babbitt was entirely lawful. He maintains that Byrd screamed ‘stay back, stay back, don’t come in here’ as the lieutenant and other officers stood with guns drawn on the other side of the barricaded door.
After Byrd was cleared, Schamel told the Wall Street Journal: ‘This is the only correct conclusion following the events of Jan. 6. The lieutenant exercised professionalism and fantastic restraint in defending and protecting members of Congress.’
Babbitt, who is now suing the Metropolitan Police Department for refusing to identify the officer, said the characterization of his wife following her death sickened him
His verdict was echoed by Republican Representative. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, who witnessed the shooting and said: ‘I truly feel that he saved some people’s lives that day.’
In a 2015 review of police shootings in Philadelphia, Justice Department officials advised that information about critical incidents should be released within 72 hours and that failing to provide it contributed to mistrust of law enforcement.
That same year a Presidential task force said ‘agencies should communicate with citizens and the media swiftly, openly, and neutrally’.
Neither advisory specifically said that officers should be named but officials involved in both said their recommendations implied that cops should be identified, the Washington Post reported.
Of the 990 fatal police shootings nationwide in 2015, the officers involved were publicly named in 600 cases. A further 180 were identified in leaks and court documents, the Post added.
Air Force records show Babbitt served for 12 years from 2004 to 2016 before setting up a pool cleaning business with her ex-marine husband Aaron.
She was previously prosecuted for reckless endangerment, malicious destruction of property and tampering with a car, and was the subject of two restraining orders.
Aaron’s ex-girlfriend wrote an affidavit in 2016 accusing Babbitt of lying in wait for her, chasing her down a Maryland highway in an SUV and deliberately rear-ending her three times in a fit of jealousy.
Babbitt was later acquitted of the charges. Roberts, a Maryland-based attorney who specializes in police misconduct and civil rights cases, maintains she posed no threat on January 6.
He says that a 5ft 2in woman weighing 110 pounds could have easily been tackled and handcuffed by a single officer.
‘It is clear from video footage that Ashli did not pose a danger to the officer, or any other person, when she was shot,’ Roberts said last month in a statement. ‘Ashli was unarmed. She did not assault anyone. She did not threaten to harm anyone. There was no excuse for taking her life.
He added: ‘To date, the officer who shot Ashli has not been identified. Neither the Capitol Police nor any other governmental authority has given an account of the facts surrounding the shooting.
‘There has been no official explanation or justification for the use of lethal force in this matter. ‘This lack of transparency impedes the public scrutiny which is necessary to hold government officials accountable in a free society.
‘It also interferes with the ability of Ashli’s family to obtain justice for their loss.’