Last week, Michael Byrd, the Capitol police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt on January 6, was exonerated following an internal investigation. Previously, the Justice Department had decided not to bring charges against Byrd.
Now that he has been cleared, Byrd, whose identity had been protected (albeit ineffectively), has come forward to defend his shooting of Babbitt. According to Byrd, he shot Babbitt as a last resort when she attempted to crawl through the glass window of the doors to the Speaker’s Lobby, a hallway outside the House chamber where some representatives and staff members had sought refuge from the angry crowd and were trapped.
Byrd says he issued warnings not to enter the Speaker’s Lobby, but Babbitt ignored them. He contends that had he not shot her, she would have led the mob into this area and that the lives of those sheltering there, as well as officers protecting them, would have been in danger.
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.
What did Byrd know about Babbitt and her intentions? He says “I could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack or what the intentions are, but they [the mob] had shown violence leading up to that point.” Byrd adds that he was a aware of reports (erroneous as it turned out) of gunfire by protesters.
If Byrd’s rendition of the facts is true, it seems to me that he was justified in shooting Babbitt. In police shootings of lawbreakers who threaten officer safety or the safety of others, it is always my position that the officer has the right to shoot. He need not wait to be certain that lives are in danger. It’s enough that the victim breaks the law, ignores police warnings, and surges forward towards the officer or those he’s charged with protecting.
In Byrd’s account, all of these conditions are met.
If a BLM mob storms a courthouse or a police station and, ignoring an officer’s command, surges towards the occupants, I will defend that officer if he or she stops the mob by shooting the person leading the charge. I see no reason to analyze Byrd’s conduct differently. (The left, by contrast, would condemn the officer in the BLM case while having no problem with the shooting of Babbitt.)
Is Byrd’s account true? I don’t know for sure.
I wish I could rely with full confidence on the findings of the capitol police and the Justice Department. However, with the way things are these days, in particular, with Democrats bent on portraying the January 6 events as an insurrection and one of the darkest days in American history, I can’t.
On the other hand, I’m aware of no facts that contradict what Byrd says and what the investigators found. Absent such evidence, I can’t disagree with the conclusion that Byrd shot Babbitt with justification and that his exoneration is the correct outcome.