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Capitol officer Michael Byrd defends shooting Ashli Babbitt during riot

The veteran US Capitol Police officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt during the Jan. 6 riot defended his actions Thursday, telling NBC News that “I was doing my job” and insisting that Babbitt was a threat to lawmakers and congressional staff on that fateful day.

Lt. Michael Byrd came forward days after he was exonerated from any wrongdoing in Babbitt’s death by an internal use-of-force probe.

The 28-year veteran shot Babbitt, an Air Force veteran and devotee of the QAnon conspiracy theory, as she attempted to enter the Speaker’s Lobby via a broken door. The officer told NBC News’ Lester Holt that seconds before he fired his weapon, he had been screaming at Babbitt and her fellow rioters to “please stop” and “get back.”

“You’re ultimately hoping that your commands will be complied with,” Byrd said, “and unfortunately, they were not.”

Byrd also shed more light on the chaos of the day.

Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd shot and killed Ashli Babbit during the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021.
NBC

At one point, he recalled, an incorrect report that gunshots had been fired into the House chamber came over his radio.

“I was very afraid,” Byrd said. “I’m hearing about the breaches of different barricaded areas, officers being overrun, officers being down.”

Despite the hours-long rampage — which including running battles between police and rioters — Babbitt was the only person who was killed on Jan. 6.

Three other Trump supporters died after suffering medical emergencies. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died the day after the riot following a pair of strokes and at least four other law enforcement officers who responded to the Capitol that day have taken their own lives in the months since.

“I’m sure it was a terrifying situation,” Byrd told Holt when asked why no other officers shot at the rioters that day. “I can only control my reaction, my training, my level of expertise. That would be upon them to speak for themselves.”

Byrd claimed in an interview with NBC that he was "very afraid" during the riot.
Byrd claimed in an interview with NBC that he was “very afraid” during the riot.
Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Despite going into hiding since the riot, Byrd said he has received death threats from diehard Trump supporters who have guessed at his identity.

“They talked about, you know, killing me, cutting off my head, you know, very vicious and cruel things,” he said. “There were some racist attacks as well. It’s all disheartening, because I know I was doing my job.”

Trump earlier this month said that Babbitt was “murdered at the hands of someone who should never have pulled the trigger of his gun” and called for “justice.”

On Thursday, Byrd called that statement “disheartening,” but added that if he had been responsible for the former president’s protection, “I was prepared to do the same thing for him and his family … because it’s my job.”

Attorney Terry Roberts, who represents the Babbitt family, recently called her death an “ambush” and says the family is preparing to file a $10 million lawsuit against both Byrd and the Capitol Police.

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