Ashli Babbitt‘s killer spoke to NBC’s Lester Holt on Thursday, and he claimed that his decisive action displayed “the utmost courage” and “saved countless lives.”
“She was posing a threat to the United States House of Representatives,” said Lt. Michael Byrd, a Capitol Police officer.
Byrd shot and killed Babbitt—an unarmed, 5’2″ female, Air Force veteran—on January 6th as she tried to climb through a barricaded doorway in the Capitol building.
Here’s the video of the Capitol police shooting Ashli Babbitt as she and others attempted to break into the Speaker’s Lobby (a warning about viewing this)
— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) January 8, 2021
Holt asked Byrd to justify his decision to use deadly force, especially given that other Capitol officers in “potentially life-threatening situations…didn’t use their service weapons that day.”
“I’m sure it was a terrifying situation,” Byrd said. “I can only control my reaction, my training, my level of expertise. That would be upon them to speak for themselves.”
He admitted that he was “very afraid” and felt like he was “essentially trapped,” with “no retreat” and “no other way to get out.”
Byrd described his thinking before the shooting: “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.”
Holt also asked Byrd if he was “wavering,” with his arm hanging out there “for a considerable amount of time.
“I was taking a tactical stance,” he said. “You’re ultimately hoping that your commands will be complied with.”
Numerous critics have questioned Byrd’s competence because he infamously left his handgun, a Glock 22 pistol, in a Capitol Hill restroom for visitors in 2019.
The Capitol Police investigated and reviewed the life-endangering error, but Byrd did not lose his job.
“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 said in response to Holt’s question about the incident.
President Donald Trump said he believes that Byrd “murdered” Babbitt.
“Who was the person who shot an innocent, wonderful, incredible woman?,” Trump asked.
“Well, it’s disheartening,” Byrd said about the murder accusation. “If he was in the room or anywhere else, and I’m responsible for him, I was prepared to do the same thing for him and his family.”
The Capitol Police announced on Monday that Byrd will keep his job and not face internal discipline.
“The actions of the officer in this case potentially saved Members and staff from serious injury and possible death,” the department said.
Byrd said these words mean “a lot because that’s exactly what I did on that day.”
“That was my mission. That was what I prepared for, and it’s rewarding and refreshing to hear that,” Byrd said with a tear in his eye.
The attorney who represents Babbitt’s family, Terry Roberts, disputes the claim that Byrd used justified force.
Roberts said that Babbitt “was not brandishing a weapon,” was “not in close proximity to members of Congress, and “was not an imminent threat of death or serious injury to anyone.”
Roberts claims that Byrd “ambushed” Babbitt and that she did not receive a verbal warning.
“There was no warning,” Roberts said.
Byrd said he yelled multiple times at the rioters to stop trying to break through the doorway.
Shortly before Byrd fired, other rioters shouted, “Hey, he’s got a gun. He’s got a gun!”
Among the noise and chaos and Byrd’s hidden face, a verbal warning from the officer in the video isn’t noticeable.
After shooting Babbitt, Byrd fled from the scene and nearby officers failed to render her aid.
Roberts claimed that race was “clearly a factor” in the Capitol Police’s decision to hide Byrd’s identity for months.
“It’s something that has to be considered, because it’s just a clear pattern in the United States,” he said. “A white cop kills a black individual? Their name is out there within a day. It’s all public. And look, a police officer is a public official. There should not be any exception for this.”
Byrd denied having any political motivation in shooting Babbitt.
“I do my job for Republican, for Democrat, for white, for black, red, blue, green. I don’t care about your affiliation,” he said.
Holt said “threats” have put Byrd “in hiding” since the Capitol shooting.
“They talked about killing me, cutting off my head, very vicious and cruel things…,” Byrd said.
“Racist things?,” Holt interjected.
“There were some racist attacks as well. It’s all disheartening because I know I was doing my job…I believe I showed the utmost courage on January 6th, and it’s time for me to do that now,” Byrd said about showing his face on national televesion.
After Holt’s interview with Byrd, Tucker Carlson had Babbitt’s husband, Aaron Babbitt, onto his show.
Mr. Babbitt expressed no sympathy for Byrd’s position.
“I don’t even want to hear him talk about how he’s getting death threats and he’s scared,” Aaron Babbitt said. “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. So, you’re going to have to suck it up, bud, and take it.”