But How Could Ashli Babbitt Have Known Climbing Through Broken Window To Attack Congress Was Wrong?
On Thursday night, NBC's Lester Holt interviewed Lt. Michael Byrd, the Capitol Police officer who fired the shot that killed insurrectionist Ashli Babbitt. Byrd has been fully exonerated by both the Justice Department and the Capitol Police, largely because he did not actually do anything wrong.
"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," federal prosecutors said in a statement.
As horrible as it is for anyone to die in this manner, Babbitt was literally climbing through the broken window of a barricaded door during an attempted violent overthrow of the United States Congress and Byrd, who had never fired his weapon on the job before in his 28-year career as a police officer, was trying to protect members of Congress from potentially being killed. They didn't barricade the door for funsies.
Lt. Byrd explained to Holt his perspective of what was going on that day. He'd been hearing reports of violence over the radio from his colleagues, reports of pipe bombs, of an officer getting their fingertips blown off. He rushed to help members of Congress hide, telling them to remove their pins so they might pass as staff, to reduce the chances of getting killed by the mob. He and other officers barricaded the door to the lobby with whatever was available — desks, chairs, etc.
"Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were," Byrd said in an exclusive interview with NBC News' Lester Holt, speaking publicly for the first time since the riot. "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," added Byrd, who gave NBC News permission to use his name after authorities had declined to release it.
And then he heard the screaming mob, saw the window smashed and then saw Babbitt climbing through.
"I could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack or what the intentions are," Byrd said. "But they had shown violence leading up to that point." [...]
Asked why he pulled the trigger, Byrd said it was a "last resort."
"I tried to wait as long as I could," he told Holt. "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."
While this is the first time Lt. Byrd has appeared on camera, his name has been passed around on rightwing message boards and social media for a while now. He has gotten death threats, his family has been threatened, and, quite frankly, this is probably not going to make things any better.
In the days after Jan. 6, Byrd's name leaked out in right-wing media and online forums. Then came the threats.
"They talked about killing me, cutting off my head," Byrd said, adding that there were also racist attacks.
"It's all disheartening, because I know I was doing my job."
The hardest part, he said, has been the effect on his family. A tear slid out of Byrd's eye and trickled down his right cheek as he lamented how the life he built has been upended.
Nice people, really.
Babbitt's family is filing a civil suit against Byrd, claiming she was given no warning, but one would think that the officers yelling at the crowd to stay back from the barricaded door was probably a pretty good sign that she was not welcome. Pretty much no one in their right mind would believe that it was her right to climb through a window someone had just smashed with a flagpole in order to enter the House Speaker's Lobby.
It's not Lt. Byrd's fault that Babbitt is dead, but it's not entirely her own fault, either. It's the fault of Donald Trump for telling these people that an election was stolen from him and from them and it's also the fault of every rightwing pundit and politician who has spent years telling these people that they have not just a right to overthrow the government, but an obligation, and that "watering the tree of liberty" is the whole purpose of the Second Amendment.
They say it all the time, because it's good for them politically, because it's good for the gun lobbies, because it's what the kind of assholes who fantasize about being "patriots" are desperate to hear. Assholes like Ashli Babbitt. They never tell them that it is in fact illegal to do this, or that they could end up dead or in prison for trying it. But, clearly, that is what can and does happen.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse