Capitol Police Officer Defends Shooting Rioter on Jan. 6 by Revealing His Identity
“I believe I saved countless lives that day,” Lt. Michael Byrd told NBC. He stated that shooting Ashli Babbitt was a "last resort" after she crashed through a door near lawmakers.
Lt. Michael Byrd, the Capitol Police officer who fatally shot a rioter during the Jan. 6 incident, defended his conduct on Thursday in a televised interview, saying that squeezing the trigger was a "last choice" that saved the mob from killing lawmakers.
Lieutenant Byrd told NBC Nightly News, "I know that day I saved countless lives." Lieutenant Byrd was publicly identified for the first time. “I am aware that members of Congress, as well as my fellow officers and employees, were at danger. And that is my responsibility.”
The Capitol Police and federal prosecutors withheld his identification, citing death threats against him and his family. Former President Donald J. Trump and far-right Republicans have painted Ashli Babbitt, the rioter he shot, as a hero and implied without evidence that she was the victim of intentional murder.
Lieutenant Byrd led and managed the House chamber's defense on Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump crowd stormed the Capitol and assaulted police officers as Congress counted electoral votes to formally certify President Biden's election.
Lieutenant Byrd, a 28-year member of the Capitol Police, stated that he had never fired his rifle before to Jan. 6. He contended it was his only alternative when rioters burst through the glass doors of the Speaker's Lobby, disregarding instructions to retreat and frightening lawmakers gathering only feet away.
“I waited as long as I could,” he explained. “I hoped and prayed that no one attempted to enter those doors. However, their inability to comply compelled me to take the necessary action to protect members of Congress, as well as myself and my fellow officers.”
The Capitol Police reported Monday that their investigation into the shooting determined that the officer acted appropriately and may have averted significant injury or death to senators and aides.
That decision followed an April Justice Department determination that charges against the officer in the shooting of Ms. Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran, were not justified. She was one of a swarm of Trump fans who rammed their way into the Speaker's Lobby, a restricted area just outside the House chamber, as authorities evacuated legislators.
According to video of the encounter, Ms. Babbitt attempted to climb through a breach in the glass as protesters destroyed the lobby doors. On the other side, someone fired a single shot, knocking her back and pushing the invaders away. She was struck in the left shoulder by the bullet and was rushed to the hospital, where she died. She was one among five people killed in the Capitol attack and its aftermath.
According to Mr. Trump, Ms. Babbitt was "murdered at the hands of someone who should never have drawn his pistol."
“We know who he is,” Mr. Trump said this month of the officer.
Lieutenant Byrd stated in the NBC interview that he safeguarded Republicans and Democrats alike at the Capitol, including Mr. Trump while he was in the House chamber.
“I perform my work for Republicans, Democrats, whites, blacks, reds, blues, and greens,” he explained. “I am unconcerned with your affiliation.”
Ms. Babbitt's husband has filed a lawsuit seeking to compel the release of investigative data relating to the shooting, and her family has vowed to sue the Capitol Police for damages.
As with Congress, the Capitol Police is not subject to public records requests.
Lieutenant Byrd's attorney, Mark E. Schamel, has described the officer as a "seasoned veteran" who exhibited "tremendous restraint in firing only one shot."
“His willingness to stand firm in the face of hundreds of violent, extremist, would-be insurrectionists intent on obstructing Congress from performing its constitutional duty exemplified the type of heroism and commitment that the lieutenant has demonstrated over the course of his nearly three decades in law enforcement,” Mr. Schamel said in a statement this week.