Following a FOIA request and a lawsuit, Judicial Watch has obtained around 500 pages of documents from the D.C. Metropolitan Police that relate to the shooting of Ashli Babbitt during the January 6 riot. The documents are here; you can read them and make of them what you will. Judicial Watch’s commentary on the materials is here.
The most significant documents are the statements taken from the other law enforcement personnel who were on the scene at the time of the shooting. They vividly convey the chaos of the moment, driven by the conduct of the rioters and also by a report of shots fired inside the Capitol that turned out to be false. The officers were badly outnumbered and feared, legitimately, for their own safety. At the same time, none described anything like an imminent threat. The statements describe Lieutenant Byrd as distraught after the shooting, and also depict the frantic effort that officers made to save Babbitt’s life.
I think these statements can reasonably be interpreted to suggest that Lieutenant Byrd’s shooting of Babbitt was a mistake. As noted, none of the officers describes what he perceived as an imminent threat coming from any of the rioters, let alone Babbitt. Several of the other officers say that they considered using non-lethal force, but decided against it. And they all seem to have been surprised by Byrd’s shooting of Babbitt, although they don’t put it that way. What they do say is that they weren’t sure what had happened, and didn’t know, at first, whether Babbitt had been shot by one of the rioters or by an officer.
A. … That, that one individual who punched the glass, he was obviously the most noticeable. She [Babbitt] would easily be my second, second…
Q. Second, why?
A. Possible. Uh, she’s very passionate about the, what she was doing.
A. And, um, violent as well.
Q. And when you say she was violent, um, what was she doing that you interpreted as being violent, or, uh, uh, whatever?
A. So obviously, the, the highlight, I guess, is the individual punching the glass, but then below that person, she’s just waving her hands, screaming and yelling, um…
Q. Threatening you in any way?
Q. Okay. Threatening the members of Congress in any way that you could hear?
A. I can’t recall.
A. I’m sorry, no.
Another officer considered and rejected the option of escalating force against the rioters:
Q. Okay. While, while standing there, did you ever, uh, uh, and you kind of intimated your, your, you, your Sam Brown belt, with your, with your service weapon. Did you ever, uh, did the thought ever occur to you to utilize any ofyour service weapons?
A, Uh, no.
Q. Okay. Why not?
A. So, you’re accountable for every round in, in your service weapon, obviously, you can’t shoot into empty an empty crowd. That’s so wrong.
A. And, then we were so outnumbered that if in particular, I did think about, um, the gentleman who was punching the, the glass, uh, by the door. Um, my initial thought was like, we have, I got to stop him. However, the numbers were so great, uh, on their side, if, if I were to deal with that individual, then there’s only two versus the, the sixty to eighty people that were in that hallway.
Q. Let me ask you this, and if I misrepresent anything in any way, please correct me. But, it would be fair that maybe your thought process also was, if I display a service weapon, it may just escalate the crowd?
A. A hundred percent.
Q. Okay. Alright. Or if you had used some OC Spray, it may have only escalated what was already happening?
Of course, there is a big difference between a mistake and a crime. The overriding fact about the tumult on January 6, in my opinion, is that security around the Capitol was ridiculously weak. Rioters never should have been allowed anywhere near the Capitol, and, needless to say, demonstrators–as they were in most cases, not rioters–should not have been invited inside the building by Capitol guards. I don’t know whether any investigation has yet uncovered the reasons behind the unforgivable lapse of security that resulted in Babbitt’s death, among many other things, but there is a story there that needs to be told.