The U.S. Capitol Police announced last Friday that the officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt during the January 6 riot at the Capital Building was officially exonerated of all charges following an internal investigation.
NBC News aired an interview with that same officer — Lt. Michael Leroy Byrd. But the interview raises more question than it answers — especially in light of an FBI report released the same day as the U.S. Capitol Police report.
Although the public has known for months that Byrd was the gunman, the Capitol Police never released his identity.
During the riot he remained hidden from view with his service weapon drawn and extended and his finger on the trigger, prior to delivering the shot that killed Babbitt. He made himself out to be the hero throughout the interview.
“Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were,” he told NBC News anchor Lester Holt.
“If they get through that door, they’re into the House chamber and upon the members of Congress,” added Byrd.
He said that he saw a mob of protesters smash their way through a set of glass doors — Babbitt was near the front.
“I tried to wait as long as I could,” he told Holt. “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.”
He claimed that he’d repeatedly shouted commands to the protesters to retreat. Video from the riots doesn’t confirm this, however. He either never gave the commands or he couldn’t be heard above the sound of the mob.
At any rate, he shot Babbitt as she was attempting to climb through a smashed window.
“The subject was sideways and I could not see her full motion of her hands or anything,” he told Holt. “So her movement caused the discharge to fall where it did.”
To be clear, it was his movement against the trigger that “caused the discharge to fall where it did.”
Despite her stature (described as 5’2” and 125 pounds soaking wet) and the fact that she was unarmed (as were all the protesters) he believed that his actions were heroic.
“I know that day I saved countless lives,” Byrd said. “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.”
There’s no question but that he was frightened. Most people would be under those circumstances. But Babbitt clearly didn’t even know Byrd was there. Had she known a gun was trained on her, it’s doubtful that she would have taken another step.
This isn’t Byrd’s first serious professional mishap.
Two years ago he left his loaded Glock 22 — which has no manual safety — unattended in a public restroom at the Capitol Visitor Center complex. It was later discovered “during a routine security sweep.”
He told fellow officers the following day that he “will be treated differently” because of his rank as a lieutenant. He apparently was, as he wasn’t fired and kept his standing.
It now looks as though it also worked to his advantage on January 6. The U.S. Capitol Police enjoy special privileges not shared by officers serving other agencies.
“Most police departments — including Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police — are required to release an officer’s name within days of a fatal shooting,” Real Clear Investigations reported. “Not the U.S. Capitol Police, which is controlled by Congress and answers only to Congress.”
And apparently Congress protects its officers no matter what the circumstances.
On the same day the Capitol Police formally exonerated Byrd, the FBI released the results of its own investigation into the January 6 disturbance.
Despite claims from Democrats and media that it was an “insurrection,” the FBI found little evidence to indicate that the attack on the Capitol was coordinated.
“Insurrection” is defined as “an organized attempt by a group of people to defeat their government and take control of their country, usually by violence.”
Accordingly, it was no insurrection. It was disturbing, it was frightening, and yes, it was wrong. But it was also “Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour” — or in this case, three hours.
Any other officer working for any other agency under similar circumstances would have been indicted by now, and have been given a public trial.
In this case no evidence was released to the public, only a statement that “no further action will be taken in this matter” and an indication that Byrd had not only been exonerated, but his actions commended.
Giving Byrd the benefit of the doubt, they may be right.
But in order to restore public trust, the government should present evidence at a trial and let the chips fall where they may.
Byrd shouldn’t be given special treatment just because he works for Nancy Pelosi.
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He is also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. Read Dorstewitz's Reports — More Here.
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