Police Lieutenant Michael Byrd, a 28-year veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police Department, has publicly come forward as the man who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt, the election certification protester who was killed after trying to enter the Speaker’s Lobby during the January 6 riot.
During an interview, which aired late Thursday, Byrd told NBC News that it was his job to protect the lawmakers and staff in the area — of whom there were about 60 to 80 people — and that he believes that he made the right decision.
“I followed my training, and I spent countless years preparing for such a moment. You ultimately hope that moment never occurs, but you prepare as best you can. I know that day I saved countless lives,” said Byrd. “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.”
NOW: Join us on @NBCNightlyNews for @LesterHoltNBC‘s exclusive interview with Lieutenant Michael Byrd — the U.S. Capitol Police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt while defending the U.S. House chamber during the Capitol attack. pic.twitter.com/mgub2ZcYdQ
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) August 26, 2021
During the riot, said Byrd, his police radio provided updates about the developing situation. One update said officers were down, and another said that there were shots fired — although he later said he learned that the shots fired update wasn’t true. These updates, he said, were his only glimpse into what was happening elsewhere. “It was literally broadcast over the air,” Byrd recalled.“I said, ‘OK, this is getting serious.’”
The doorway was barricaded with furniture, and Byrd, tasked with protecting lawmakers, says he was “essentially trapped” in place along with everyone else, without any way to retreat, reported NBC News.
The crowd later approached the barricade. Byrd told NBC News that he couldn’t get an accurate count of how many people were on the other side there because of it, and had repeatedly told the crowd to get back. When Byrd saw another person — later identified as 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt — starting to come through the glass, he fired his gun. He said he was unaware that she was unarmed, and also didn’t know there were, at one point, officers on the other side of the barricade.
“I tried to wait as long as I could,” said Byrd. “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.”
Earlier this year, the Department of Justice closed the investigation into Byrd, and more recently, the U.S. Capitol Police determined that his actions were within department policy and that he would not face discipline.
“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,” said the department.
The Department of Justice said in a statement, back in April, that it had found “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.”
Byrd denied that there were any other motivations behind the shooting and told NBC News that he has also protected former President Donald Trump in the past. “If he was in the Capitol and I was responsible for him, I’d do the same thing for him and his family,” said Byrd.
He told NBC News that he has decided to speak out in the hopes that people will understand that he did his job. “There was imminent threat and danger to the members of Congress. I just want the truth to be told,” he said.
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