Donald Trump has been calling Babbitt a martyr for his cause, overthrowing our democracy. He has also been asking who shot her. Thursday, Lt. Michael Byrd stepped forward to claim that truly sad title.
Byrd and a couple of other Capitol Police officers stood behind an emergency wall of furniture outside of the Capitol Chamber doors. The officer broke his silence when he gave NBC News’ Lester Holt in an exclusive interview:
‘Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were. 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.’
He heard other police offers shouting “Officer down!” Then there were the officers screaming as the rioters hit them with chemical agents. Someone said “an officer’s fingertips were blown off:”
‘It was literally broadcast over the air, I said, “OK, this is getting serious.”‘
Byrd has had no regrets:
‘I know that day I saved countless lives. 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.’
Why did he shoot? Byrd responded that it was a “last resort:”
‘I tried to wait as long as I could. 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.’
Just days earlier the Washington native and other officials had reviewed the “security plan for the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election:”
‘We did not get specific intel that would require us to change or adjust our posture. At that point, it felt like a routine event that I’ve done over the last 28 years of my career.’
Byrd was the one whose voice we heard telling House lawmakers to disguise themselves against the mob:
‘One of the things that was imperative was to inform the members to remove their pins to allow them to blend into remove their jackets, to look like staff as much as possible.’
That was the point when the insurrectionists broke the glass inset in the door. Several officers and Byrd rushed to erect “the makeshift barricade” built from chamber furniture:
‘At that point is when I realized they’re [the insurrectionists] here. The chants got louder. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but it sounded like hundreds of people outside of that door.’
Then, he saw Babbitt:
‘It was impossible for me to see what was on the other side. I could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack or what the intentions are. But they had shown violence leading up to that point.’
Byrd has worked for the Capitol Police for 28 years. He drew his gun only when the insurrectionists broke through. He said he yelled repeatedly for them to get back. But “the mob kept pressing forward,” and then a single rioter began climbing through one of the doors.
Babbitt, who was 35, served as an Air Force veteran and was a rabid Trump supporter. She died from her wound later.
That was when Byrd’s life went AWOL. He went into hiding until the Holt interview. Byrd dismissed the lie he had a political agenda:
‘I do my job for Republican, for Democrat, for white, for Black, red, blue, green. I don’t care about your affiliation.’
He took the ex-president through the Capitol Building often:
‘If he was in the Capitol and I was responsible for him, I’d do the same thing for him and his family.’
The officer was buried under “a flood of death threats and racist attacks that started when someone leaked his name on right-wing websites.” That was when things went dark:
‘They talked about killing me, cutting off my head. It’s all disheartening, because I know I was doing my job. Sometimes, you can’t do anything but cry. 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.’
One reason he spoke publically to NBC, was he said that he wanted to set the facts straight despite the consequences:
‘It’s something that is frightening. Again, I believe I showed the utmost courage on January 6, and it’s time for me to do that now. 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.’
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has cleared the officer:
‘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.’
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