The Capitol police officer who fatally shot rioter Ashli Babbitt during the deadly Jan. 6 storming stepped forward Thursday, claiming that his actions likely saved lawmakers and others who barricaded themselves against an onslaught of protesters at the U.S. Capitol.
“I know that day I saved countless lives,” Lt. Michael 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.”
Byrd, who has been the target of death threats since firing the shot that felled Babbitt, had not been publicly identified until he spoke to NBC Nightly News in a Thursday interview.
“I tried to wait as long as I could,” he said. “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.”
Earlier this week, the U.S. Capitol Police cleared Byrd after an internal review also concluded the action may have spared the lives of lawmakers and staffers.
“The officer’s actions were consistent with the officer’s training and (U.S. Capitol Police) policies,” the agency’s inquiry found. The agency did not identify Byrd in the report.
Federal prosecutors decided in April not to pursue criminal charges in the case.
Some who supported the Capitol storming cast Babbitt as a martyr to the conservative cause. Former President Donald Trump described Babbitt as “innocent.”
Babbitt, 35, from San Diego, was trying to climb through a broken door near the House Speaker’s Lobby when the officer fired.
The Justice Department determined there was not enough evidence to prove that the officer who shot Babbitt did so unreasonably or in a manner that willfully deprived her of her civil rights. The investigation concluded the officer could reasonably believe he was firing in self-defense or in defense of members of Congress.
The Capitol Police Office of Professional Responsibility determined Monday that the officer’s conduct “was lawful and within Department policy,” which states that deadly force may be used when an officer “reasonably believes that action is in the defense of human life, including the officer’s own life, or in the defense of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury.”
Earlier Thursday, seven Capitol Police officers filed a lawsuit accusing Trump, his longtime adviser Roger Stone and members of far-right extremist groups of conspiring to attempt to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday morning, alleges that Trump and the other defendants conspired with one other through the use of force, threats and intimidation that culminated in the attack on the Capitol.
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