The Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol spoke out for the first time on Thursday, contending that he “saved countless lives” when protecting lawmakers against the violent rioters.
The officer, Lt. Michael Byrd, was publicly identified for the first time since the incident during an interview on “NBC Nightly News,” which aired Thursday evening.
Byrd said he does not doubt that he made the right decision while protecting the Capitol during the deadly riot, telling host Lester Holt, “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,” he added.
Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran and a supporter of former President Trump, was one of five people who died as a result of the Jan. 6 riot, when a violent, pro-Trump mob descended on the Capitol complex in an attempt to delay the certification of the Electoral College vote for the 2020 presidential election.
Babbitt was shot when she tried to enter the Speaker’s Lobby, located just off the House floor. A group of people crashed through a window in the gallery, which Babbitt then attempted to climb through.
Byrd fired one shot, hitting Babbitt in the left shoulder.
The officer is speaking out publicly for the first time after the Capitol Police released a statement on Monday which said that Byrd’s “conduct was lawful and within Department policy, contending that officers are permitted to 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.”
Byrd, as a result, will not face any disciplinary action.
That statement did not identify Byrd by name.
Byrd, during the interview, discussed in detail the moments leading up to when he fired at Babbitt, telling Holt: “I tried to wait as long as I could.”
He said he “hoped and prayed” that nobody would try to enter the doors he was guarding, but their “failure to comply required” him to “take the appropriate action to save the lives of members of Congress and myself and my fellow officers.”
Byrd at one point during the riots was inside the House chamber, where a number of lawmakers were seeking cover. He told Holt that he gave one critical instruction to the members on the floor: to remove their congressional pins so they would blend in.
“One of the things that was imperative was to inform the members to remove their pins to allow them to blend in,” Byrd said. “To remove their jackets, to look like staff as much as possible.”
Byrd soon after rushed out of the chamber and, along with a few other officers, created a makeshift barricade with furniture. He said it was at that point, when “the chants got louder,” that he knew the mob was approaching.
“At that point is when I realized they’re here,” Byrd said. “The chants got louder. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but it sounded like hundreds of people outside of that door.”
Trump claimed in July that the officer who shot Babbitt, now identified as Byrd, had “no reason” to shoot her.
When Holt asked Byrd about the political implications that followed his decision to use his weapon on Jan. 6, the officer rejected the notion among some that he had a political agenda.
“I do my job for Republican, for Democrat, for white, for Black, red, blue, green,” he said. “I don’t care about your affiliation.”
He said he escorted Trump through the Capitol when he was president on a number of occasions, adding that he would offer the same protection to the former president and his family if they were within the halls of Congress.
“If he was in the Capitol and I was responsible for him, I’d do the same thing for him and his family,” Byrd said.
The Capitol Police officer also revealed that he received a number of threats following the Jan. 6 attack after his name leaked in right-wing media and on online forums.
Some of the threats, he said, were racist.
“They talked about killing me, cutting off my head,” Byrd said.
“It’s all disheartening because I know I was doing my job,” he added.
Byrd said he went into hiding for months because of the barrage of threats against him.
When discussing individuals who disagree with his decision to pull his weapon on Babbitt, Byrd told Holt “I hope they understand I did my job.”
“There was imminent threat and danger to the members of Congress. I just want the truth to be told,” he added.
Via The Hill