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Officer who shot January 6 rioter Ashli Babbitt breaks his silence: 'I saved countless lives'

"I believe I showed the utmost courage on January 6. And it's time for me to do that now," he said about his decision to come forward now.

Officer who shot January 6 rioter Ashli Babbitt breaks his silence: 'I saved countless lives'
Cover Image Source: A large group of pro-Trump protesters raise signs and flags on the grounds of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

The police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt during the Capitol riot on January 6 revealed his identity for the first time in an exclusive interview with NBC News' Lester Holt this week. Opening up about the threats he's received since the riot, Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd said that there have been racist and "very vicious and cruel things" said about him. "It's all disheartening because I know I was doing my job," he added in the interview released Thursday evening. Although the threats made him concerned about revealing his identity, he said: "I believe I showed the utmost courage on January 6. And it's time for me to do that now."



 

 

The explosive new interview comes three days after the Capitol Police announced that Byrd will not face any disciplinary action as they believe he acted within department policy on the day of the insurgence. "USCP's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) determined the officer's conduct was lawful and within Department policy, which says an officer may use deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes that action is in the defense of human life, including the officer's own life, or in the defense of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury," read a statement by the department, reported CNN.



 

 

Recounting the chaotic moments before he shot Babbitt, Byrd revealed that his attention was focused on the glass doors leading into the lobby of the House of Representatives chamber where about 60 to 80 House members and staffers were holed up inside. As rioters rampaged through the Capitol building, Byrd and some other officers set up a wall of furniture outside the doors. "Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were," he said in the interview. "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," Byrd added. While they anxiously waited for any possible rioters who may come that way, Byrd's police radio crackled with a barrage of alarming messages about officers down, rioters attacking his colleagues with chemical agents, a jarring report that an officer's fingertips had been blown off. "It was literally broadcast over the air," he said. "I said, 'OK, this is getting serious.'" Amid these reports, a horde of demonstrators arrived at the glass doors leading into the Speaker's Lobby and the 28-year veteran of the Capitol Police took a defensive posture with his gun drawn.



 

 

Byrd said although he repeatedly yelled for them to get back, the rioters pressed forward and smashed the glass doors. Then came Babbitt, an Air Force veteran and ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump, who tried to climb through one of the doors. In footage from that day, Byrd is seen firing a single shot that struck the 35-year-old in the left shoulder. She later died from her injuries at Washington Hospital Center. When asked why he pulled the trigger, Byrd said it was a "last resort."



 

 

"I tried to wait as long as I could," he said. "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." Byrd, who is Black, said the incident turned his life upside down. However, he is convinced he made the right decision in light of the circumstances. "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."



 

 

In the days following the riot, Byrd's name leaked via right-wing media and online forums and he was bombarded with threats. "They talked about killing me, cutting off my head," he said, adding that the hardest part about it all has been the effect on his family. "Sometimes, you can't do anything but cry," Byrd said. "You felt like you did your job. You helped protect our legislative leaders of this country and you fought for democracy and keeping them established... There was imminent threat and danger to the members of Congress. I just want the truth to be told."

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