by Marshall Cohen | CNN
The veteran US Capitol police officer who killed pro-Trump rioters Ashley Babbitt went public on Thursday, revealed his identity and defended his actions on Jan.
“I know I saved countless lives that day,” Lieutenant Michael Byrd said in an interview with NBC News. “I know that members of Congress, as well as my fellow officers and employees, were in danger and in grave danger. And that’s my job.”
The officer shot Babbitt in the shoulder as she climbed through a window leading into the speaker’s lobby adjacent to the House Hall, while MPs were exiting.
“I tried to wait as long as I could,” Byrd said of the incident in the doorway. “I hope and pray that no one tries to enter through those doors. But their failure to comply led me to take appropriate action to save the lives of members of Congress and myself and my fellow officers.
The Justice Department said in April that Bird would not be charged criminally in relation to Babbitt’s death, and US Capitol Police said last week that he would not face any internal discipline. He may still face civil lawsuit from Babbitt’s family, who have threatened trial.
Bird, a Washington native who has been in law enforcement for 28 years, said he followed his training and repeatedly yelled at the crowd, asking them to stop heading to the House Hall.
He said he was “taking a tactical stand” by drawing his gun as the crowd approached. “You are ultimately hoping that your orders will be followed. Unfortunately, they were not.”
‘I want the truth to be told’
In the seven months since the rebellion, former President Donald Trump and his allies have attempted to craft a story around Babit’s death and turn him into a martyr in right-wing circles.
Trump said Babbitt, a QAnon supporter and Air Force veteran, was a “flawless, wonderful, incredible woman.” During a Fox News interview, Trump also falsely accused the officer of shooting Babbitt in the head. Republican lawmakers also dismissed misleading claims about the incident, claiming that Bird was “lying in wait” to kill Babbitt and “executed” him in cold blood.
In an interview with NBC, Byrd said Trump’s comments were “disappointing” and denied that they acted out of political animosity. He defended Trump during his presidency when he visited the Capitol.
“I hope they understand that I have done my job,” Byrd said of Republicans who have criticized him. “There was imminent danger and danger to the members of Congress. I just want to tell the truth.”
Many of the conspiracy theories stem from a lack of transparency from the Capitol Police and the investigators who reviewed the incident. Bird spoke of her own free will and was never named by any government entity, even though it is common in many jurisdictions for police departments to publicly release the names of officers involved in fatal shootings.
Uncertainty about Bird’s identity sparked a new rally – “Who shot the Ashley Babbit?” – Which Trump has raised in recent rallies. Byrd’s name has been floating around right-wing websites, and he said in an emotional interview on Thursday that he and his family have received death threats, including racist threats.
“They talked about killing me, beheading me,” Bird said.
In an interview with CNN earlier this year, Babbitt’s family said she was “patriotic” and at the Capitol to “express her First Amendment right and answer the call of the president sitting still.”
The family says it is considering a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Bird, and has already filed a civil suit asking police for records and other information about the incident.
His attorney, Terry Roberts, said in an interview with Zenger News that he believed Byrd was unfit to own or carry a gun in the Capitol. He also condemned the US Capitol Police for never publicly naming Bird, which he claimed was kept secret without evidence because Bird is black.
“The US Congress wants to protect this man. He has friends in high places and wants to protect them,” Roberts said in the interview. “And they’ve done a great job of it. … I don’t think it’s a proud moment for the US Capitol Police or the US Congress.”