The officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbit during the January 6 Insurrection at the Capitol spoke out publicly for the first time during an exclusive interview with NBC News. Lieutenant Michael Byrd told Lester Holt that he fired his weapon during the Jan. 6 Insurrection at the Capitol as a last resort, because the rioters did not obey his commands.
Lt. Byrd described the situation he and his fellow officers were facing that day as a crowd of President Trump’s supporters had overrun the Capitol Police and entered the building. The officers were on the other side of the glass doors that lead into the lobby of the chamber for the House of Representatives, where Byrd estimated about 60 to 80 House members and staffers were located. The officers tried to block the entrance with furniture.
Byrd said he and his fellow officers had nowhere to go if the rioters breached the lobby.
“Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were. There was no way to retreat. No other way to get out.”
He said he and the officers screamed that they had their weapons drawn. “I was taking a tactical stance. I was …hoping our commands would be obeyed. They were not,” he says.
Babbit, the 35-year-old Air Force veteran turned MAGA and Qanon devotee was trying to climb through the broken window when Byrd fired the shot that would kill her.
Byrd has been investigated and cleared by the Justice Department and the Capitol Police for the shooting. He says he knows he did the right thing because his job was to protect the members of Congress from the rioters.
Babbit’s attorney disputes that, saying she was unarmed at the time she was shot. Byrd said he had no idea at the time if the person he shot was armed, but said her decision not to comply with his orders gave him no choice but to shoot.
“If they get through that door, they’re into the House chamber and upon the members of Congress.”
Byrd added that during the chaos inside the Capitol, he and his fellow officers were getting alarming reports over their radios, including of shots being fired, which turned out to be false.
Babbit has been turned into a martyr by those on the far right, and former President Trump has even declared that she was murdered. Byrd, who has been forced to go into hiding because of numerous threats against his life, called it “disheartening” to hear the former president say that.
“If he was in the room or anywhere and I am responsible for him, I was prepared to do the same thing for him and his family,” Byrd says, adding that he would have no problem whatsoever defending Trump even today.
Despite the threats and ensuing fallout, Byrd does not second-guess his actions that day.