TAMPA (NBC) – In the chaotic minutes before he shot and killed Ashli Babbitt during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, Lt. Michael Byrd focused his attention on the glass doors leading into the lobby of the House of Representatives chamber.
About 60 to 80 House members and staffers were holed up inside, and it was Byrd’s job to protect them.
As rioters rampaged through the Capitol, Byrd and a few other officers from the Capitol Police set up a wall of furniture outside the doors.
“Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were,” Byrd said in an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt, speaking publicly for the first time since the riot. “There was no way to retreat. No other way to get out.”
Lt. Byrd whose identity has not been revealed, shot Babbitt after she and a mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol and tried to gain entry to restricted parts of the building. Babbitt had been climbing through the broken window of a door outside the Speaker’s lobby. She was hit in the left shoulder and fell back from the doorway and onto the floor. She was taken to Washington Hospital Center, where she later died.
In the months since the Capitol riot, Babbitt, an Air Force veteran, has become a martyr to many on the far right, who have demanded the identity of the officer be publicly released.
“I spoke to the wonderful mother and husband of Ashli Babbitt, who was murdered at the hands of someone who should have never pulled the trigger of his gun,” former President Donald Trump said in an emailed statement to news outlets calling for “justice.”
“If this happened to the ‘other side,’ there would be riots all over America, and yet there are far more people represented by Ashli, who truly loved America, than there are on the other side,” the statement continued.
In April, the Justice Department called Babbitt’s death a “tragic loss of life,” but said the officer will not face criminal charges.
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