Michael Byrd was identified as the Capitol police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran from San Diego who was shot while trying to climb through a door with broken glass inside the U.S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021.
The U.S. Department of Justice had previously announced that the officer will not face criminal charges in connection with Babbitt’s death, in part because members of Congress were being evacuated from the area near where the shooting occurred. Controversy ensued over authorities’ refusal to name Byrd.
“Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were,” Byrd said in an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt. “There was no way to retreat. No other way to get out.
“If they get through that door, they’re into the House chamber and upon the members of Congress…I know that day I saved countless lives,” Byrd said. “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 called shooting Babbitt “a last resort.”
Byrd, 53, who is speaking to NBC tonight, was named by the Babbitt family lawyer in advance of that interview. His full name is Michael Leroy Byrd, and he is also called Mike Byrd. He has the rank of lieutenant and has served on the House Capitol Police Board, dating back to at least 1998, according to Legistorm. Byrd is in the top middle of this picture:
The page Justice for Ashli Babbit tweeted, “Babbitt family attorney, Terry Roberts identifies the killer of Ashli Babbitt as USCP Lieutenant Michael Leroy Byrd.” Daily Mail has published a series of photos of Byrd, which you can see here.
Byrd’s name was previously mentioned on video by Sergeant At Arms Timothy Blodgett during a Capitol hearing.
“EXCLUSIVE: @LesterHoltNBC will sit down for an interview with the U.S. Capitol Police officer responsible for shooting and killing Ashli Babbitt while defending the U.S. House chamber during the January 6, 2021 Capitol attack.,” NBC said in a press release.
A graphic live stream video showed the 35-year-old Babbitt lying almost motionless on the ground inside the Capitol building as supporters of President Donald Trump milled in a hallway and roamed around the chambers of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House. Babbitt was killed as she tried to climb through a window that led into a hallway connected to the House chamber as members of Congress scrambled to safety.
Babbitt’s husband told KUSI-TV in San Diego that she was a “strong supporter of President Trump, and was a great patriot to all who knew her,” in the words of the station.
Her Twitter page contained references to QAnon, which is a fringe extremist right wing conspiracy theory movement that believes pedophiles are embedded in high-ranking governmental positions. “Nothing will stop us….they can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours….dark to light!” she wrote. She had retweeted QAnon accounts and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
In one photo posted to social media, she wears a QAnon shirt. Another woman wrote, “Landing in DC. Here to do God’s work. Save the Republic. #StoptheSteal.” Babbitt responded to that tweet on January 4, 2021, by writing, “I will be there tomorrow! Gods speed!”
One photo on Twitter showed her wearing a MAGA hat. “We are out here enjoying our Saturday!!! together we can #MAGA #KAG God bless president trump and god bless America 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 #Trump2020 #4MoreYears,” she wrote.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Graphic Video Captured the Shooting; Byrd Will Not Face Charges, the Department of Justice Says
Graphic video captured the moment Babbitt was shot. A shot rings out as she tries to climb through a window into the Speaker’s lobby. That occurred as people, who had already breached the U.S. Capitol building, clustered in a hallway before the lobby door.
Warning, this video is graphic:
However, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that “The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice will not pursue criminal charges against the U.S. Capitol Police officer involved in the fatal shooting of 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt.”
A statement read, “The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia’s Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section and the Civil Rights Division, with the Metropolitan Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division (IAD), conducted a thorough investigation of Ms. Babbitt’s shooting. Officials examined video footage posted on social media, statements from the officer involved and other officers and witnesses to the events, physical evidence from the scene of the shooting, and the results of an autopsy. Based on that investigation, officials determined that there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution. Officials from IAD informed a representative of Ms. Babbitt’s family today of this determination.”
According to that news release, “The investigation determined that, on January 6, 2021, Ms. Babbitt joined a crowd of people that gathered on the U.S. Capitol grounds to protest the results of the 2020 presidential election. Inside the Capitol building, a Joint Session of Congress, convened to certify the results of the Electoral College vote, was underway. Members of the crowd outside the building, which was closed to the public during the Joint Session, eventually forced their way into the Capitol building and past U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officers attempting to maintain order. The Joint Session was stopped, and the USCP began evacuating members of Congress.”
The investigation further determined that Ms. Babbitt was among a mob of people that entered the Capitol building and gained access to a hallway outside “Speaker’s Lobby,” which leads to the Chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives. At the time, the USCP was evacuating Members from the Chamber, which the mob was trying to enter from multiple doorways. USCP officers used furniture to barricade a set of glass doors separating the hallway and Speaker’s Lobby to try and stop the mob from entering the Speaker’s Lobby and the Chamber, and three officers positioned themselves between the doors and the mob. Members of the mob attempted to break through the doors by striking them and breaking the glass with their hands, flagpoles, helmets, and other objects. Eventually, the three USCP officers positioned outside the doors were forced to evacuate. As members of the mob continued to strike the glass doors, Ms. Babbitt attempted to climb through one of the doors where glass was broken out. An officer inside the Speaker’s Lobby fired one round from his service pistol, striking Ms. Babbitt in the left shoulder, causing her to fall back from the doorway and onto the floor. A USCP emergency response team, which had begun making its way into the hallway to try and subdue the mob, administered aid to Ms. Babbitt, who was transported to Washington Hospital Center, where she succumbed to her injuries.
The focus of the criminal investigation was to determine whether federal prosecutors could prove that the officer violated any federal laws, concentrating on the possible application of 18 U.S.C. § 242, a federal criminal civil rights statute. In order to establish a violation of this statute, prosecutors must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officer acted willfully to deprive Ms. Babbitt of a right protected by the Constitution or other law, here the Fourth Amendment right not to be subjected to an unreasonable seizure. Prosecutors would have to prove not only that the officer used force that was constitutionally unreasonable, but that the officer did so “willfully,” which the Supreme Court has interpreted to mean that the officer acted with a bad purpose to disregard the law. As this requirement has been interpreted by the courts, evidence that an officer acted out of fear, mistake, panic, misperception, negligence, or even poor judgment cannot establish the high level of intent required under Section 242.
The investigation revealed no evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer willfully committed a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242. Specifically, the investigation revealed no evidence to establish that, at the time the officer fired a single shot at Ms. Babbitt, the officer did not reasonably believe that it was necessary to do so in self-defense or in defense of the Members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber. Acknowledging the tragic loss of life and offering condolences to Ms. Babbitt’s family, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Department of Justice have therefore closed the investigation into this matter.
Some news sites initially called her Ashli Babbit, but social media shows the correct spelling of her name is Ashli Babbitt. Some people also incorrectly were referring to her as Ashley Babbitt.
An armed standoff took place for a time outside the U.S. House front door on the afternoon of January 6. The mayhem unfolded as Congress met to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump held a rally at which he railed against the election results, falsely labeling them a fraud and declaring himself the victor.
As Congress was debating the Arizona electoral votes, upon the objection of GOP lawmakers, some people outside suddenly began fighting with Capitol police and then breached the door of the Capitol building, eventually making it onto the floor of the Senate. Multiple Capitol Police officers were also injured. As the people who broke into the building holed up inside the Capitol, the graphic video showed the woman lying, bloodied around the mouth, on the floor.
2. Byrd Was the Subject of a Previous News Story for Leaving His Service Weapon in a Bathroom; Ashli Babbitt, Who Was Shot in the Chest, Was a ‘High Level Security Official’ When She Served in the U.S. Air Force
Byrd was the subject of a 2019 story in the publication Roll Call. Described as an “U.S. Capitol Police lieutenant,” Roll Call reported that he “left his service weapon in a bathroom Monday night and the unattended gun was discovered later by another Capitol Police officer.”
Lt. Mike Byrd “left his Glock 22 in a bathroom in the Capitol Visitor Center complex,” sources told Roll Call of that incident. Speaking at a roll call, Byrd told other officers he “will be treated differently” because he was a lieutenant, although it wasn’t clear how exactly he meant that comment, Roll Call reported.
The Justice for Ashli Babbit page claimed that Byrd was “the same person that recklessly left his service weapon in a bathroom in the Capitol in 2019.”
According to KUSI, Babbitt was “a 14-year veteran, who served four tours with the US Air Force, and was a high level security official throughout her time in service.”
CNN reported, via sources, that the woman was shot in the chest on the Capitol grounds and was initially in critical condition. She later died, however.
In the live stream video, Trump supporters shout that someone was killed, and the video pans to the woman lying with blood coming out of her mouth. “Oh f***, they killed her,” says one person.
After the shooting, Trump released a video in which he declared that people should go home but stated that he loved them.
“I know your pain. I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us,” Trump said.
“It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, but you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anyone hurt. We’ve never had such a thing like this that happened where they can take it away from all of us. This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen how others are treated who are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace.”
3. Babbitt Owned a Pool Services Company in San Diego
According to her Facebook page, Babbitt was the “Owner/Operator at Fowlers Pool Service and Supply Inc.” She lived in San Diego, was from San Diego and was married. Photos show her with her husband.
In the video, Trump supporters began speaking of Civil War as the woman lay shot on the ground.
“Welcome to the start of a Civil War,” a man says in the video. He says, falsely as it turned out, that Secret Service shot her. He also said she didn’t have a weapon; authorities have not said either way. Another man says, “The Capitol Police have killed a Patriot woman.” Again, it wasn’t the Capitol Police, as it turned out. One man with a megaphone urged people not to damage the building. “This is not our house. That’s why we’re here,” retorted another man.
“He said go home; this is our home,” says a man. Another man says, “Donald Trump told everybody to go home. Let’s go home.”
A video from MSNBC showed the woman being taken out on a stretcher.
The shooting happened outside of the House of Representatives chamber. Photos from inside the House chamber showed U.S. Capitol Police with guns drawn pointing out the doors toward demonstrators.
4. An Eyewitness Says Babbitt ‘Rushed Through the Windows’
A man from New Jersey spoke to a journalist and said he was an eyewitness. He had a bloody hand. “We had stormed into the chambers inside, and there was a young lady who rushed through the windows. A number of police and Secret Service were saying get back, get down and get out of the way,” he said.
He continued, “She didn’t heed the call. As we kind of raced up to grab people and pull them back, they shot her in the neck. She fell back on me. She started to say she was fine, it’s cool. Then she started moving weird and blood was coming out of her neck and mouth and nose. I don’t know if she’s alive or dead anymore.”
The man said that “riot police came in and started ushering us out with their sticks and stuff.” Asked how they got in the Capitol, he said, “We tore through the scaffolding, through flashbangs and tear gas, and blitzed our way in through all of the chambers. Just trying to get into Congress and whoever we could get into and tell them we need some kind of investigation into this, and someone might be dead. That’s not the kind of government we can have.”
He said he wasn’t injured. “It could have been me. She went in first.” He said, “This cannot stand anymore … they don’t represent anybody. And now they will kill people.” Asked who he meant, he said, “Police, Congressmen and women. They don’t care. They think we’re a joke. $2,000 checks were a joke to them.” He said people were filming the marchers earlier and laughing at them. Once they were inside “guns came out.” He added: “We’re at a point now where it can’t be allowed to stand.”
5, On Social Media, Babbitt Touted Trump, Trashed Concerns About COVID & Indicated Distrust in Government
Babbitt filled her social media with references to Trump and QAnon.
“I will be in DC on the 6th! God bless America and WWG1WGA,” she wrote on Twitter, making a QAnon reference. She wrote that the California governor had instituted “commie rule.” She responded to a tweet criticizing Nancy Pelosi’s $600 stimulus check support, writing, “It is a smack to the gut for everyone of us…you think ppl are waking up yet?… THEY DONT GIVE A F*** ABOUT US…all they want is power and money …. we must unite!”
She retweeted Georgia lawyer Lin Wood. In December, she wrote, “COVID IS A F****** JOKE!” In September, she wrote, “Trump 2020 landslide! Let freedom ring!”
Another woman wrote on Twitter, “Serious question: Has the government started a war against it’s own people?” Babbitt responded on December 20, “We are not their ppl… they are owned-bought, paid for, enslaved… you can’t sell your soul to devil without a price. They chose, so have we. Dark to light! Let freedom ring and god bless America! God knows, god sees and he is incoming! Nothing can stop what is happening.”
According to Daily Mail, Babbitt was once charged with “reckless endangerment, malicious property damage and dangerous driving. She was acquitted of the first charge and found not guilty of the others.” The charges related to an incident reported by her husband’s ex, who, Daily Mail reports, also filed for restraining orders, which were granted, accusing Babbitt of “filing false police reports against her, lying under oath in court, and harassing her with midnight phone calls.” In the incident, the ex accused Babbitt of chasing her down a Maryland highway and rear ending her.
A mob tried to break into the chamber while members of Congress, staffers and press were inside.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, told Fox News he heard a call of shots fired:
“You break it, you buy it,” one man said in the live stream video. “Hey where’s the Senate floor. They said go to the Senate floor.”
A man in the video declared those inside the Senate as “patriots” and declared the election was a fraud. “They’re trying to get people out.”
They were clustered in a hallway, waving flags and shouting “whose house, our house.”
The death occurred as dramatic reports emanated out of the U.S. Capitol building. It was locked down, Vice President Mike Pence was ushered to safety, Congresspeople rushed off the floor, debate about certifying the election was stopped, and there were reports of smashed glass, gunfire and people running around the Senate floor. Capitol police officers were injured.
In one dramatic scene, a man climbed the dais in the Senate chambers to declare that Trump won the 2020 presidential election.
“They’re in the chamber. One is up on the dais yelling ‘Trump won that election!’ This is insane,” Igor Bobic, a reporter with the Huffington Post, wrote about the Trump supporters.
“Several people got on to a scaffolding outside Senate, took it to second floor, which looked like the area where McConnell’s office is located, and started banging on windows,” wrote Bobic.
Elijah Schaffer, a reporter for Blaze TV, shared a video and wrote, “Trump supporters have breached the Capitol building, tearing down 4 layers of security fencing and are attempting to occupy the building — fighting federal police who are overrun. This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Thousands, police can’t stop them.”
Watch video of the Trump supporters as they initially began to storm the Capitol building here:
Here’s additional video:
Julie Tsirkin, a reporter for NBC News, wrote that authorities were evacuating the Library of Congress. She shared an alert that read, “Remain calm and move in a safe manner to the exists” and “Close doors behind you but do not lock.”
She said that the Cannon office Building was also being evacuated. Then, the entire Capitol building went into lockdown.