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Capitol Police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt speaks out: 'I did my job'

"I know that day I saved countless lives," Capitol Police officer Lt. Michael Byrd said.

Published: August 26, 2021 6:04pm

Updated: August 26, 2021 9:30pm

Lt. Michael Byrd of the U.S. Capitol Police, who shot Ashli Babbitt during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, revealed his identity and explained his side of the story in an interview on "NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt" that aired Thursday.

Byrd is a 28-year veteran of the Capitol Police and had never fired his weapon while on the force until Jan. 6, according to NBC.

In the sympathetic interview, Byrd detailed the events leading up to shooting Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran and a Trump supporter.

"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."

Leading up to the shooting, he heard a variety of reports on his police radio, including that officers were down and some were attacked with chemical agents by rioters. He also heard that shots were fired, a report that later turned out to be false.

Byrd said that he and other officers barricaded the door to the lobby of the House of Representatives with furniture.

"Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were," Byrd said. "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."

Rioters smashed the glass doors to the lobby, and Byrd said he repeatedly yelled for them to get back, but they didn't, and Babbitt tried climbing through one of the doors.

"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."

The officers on the other side of the door stepped aside when they were outnumbered by the rioters. Byrd added that he did not know that officers were just on the other side of the doors because the furniture was stacked on his side of the door.

"It was impossible for me to see what was on the other side," Byrd said.

He explained that he did not know at the time if the person he had shot was armed. It wasn't until later that night that Byrd found out the rioter he shot was an unarmed woman.

When asked why he decided to shoot Babbitt, Byrd said that 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.

"I had been yelling and screaming as loud as I was, 'Please stop. Get back. Get back. Stop.' We had our weapons drawn." 

In the moment of the shooting, Byrd said he believed Babbitt "was posing a threat to the House of Representatives."

Following his name being leaked out on "right-wing media and online forums" days after the riot, Byrd said that he has been threatened, NBC reported.

"They talked about, you know, killing me, cutting off my head," he said. "You know, very vicious and cruel things."

Byrd was asked if there were any racist threats. "There were some racist attacks as well," he said. 

Holt asked Byrd about his thoughts on former President Trump saying that Babbitt was murdered.

"Well it's disheartening," he replied. "If he was in the room or anywhere and I'm responsible for him, I was prepared to do the same thing for him and his family." Byrd said that he would do his "job for Republican, for Democrat, for white, for black, red, blue, green."

Regarding those who disagree with the decision to shoot Babbitt, Byrd said: "I hope they understand I did my job. There was imminent threat and danger to the members of Congress. I just want the truth to be told."

In April, the Department of Justice decided not to charge Byrd following an investigation into the shooting. On Monday, the U.S. Capitol Police cleared Byrd of any wrongdoing following an internal investigation.

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