The U.S. Capitol police officer who killed Trump loyalist Ashli Babbitt during the Jan. 6 assault on Capitol Hill has been identified as Lt. Michael Byrd.
NBC’s Lester Holt’s highly anticipated interview with the 28-year veteran officer ran Thursday night, where Byrd described a terrifying situation that led to his firing a single shot at the 35-year-old Air Force veteran. She was draped in a Donald Trump cape and trying to make her way through a broken door.
Byrd’s name had been kept under wraps until now, even after an internal police investigation cleared him of wrongdoing. The former president himself has been among the Babbitt supporters calling for the officer who shot the radicalized right-winger to be named. Byrd admitted that coming forward was frightening.
“I think I showed the utmost courage on Jan. 6 and it’s time to do that now,” he told Holt.
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Babbitt has become a martyr among many on the far right. Byrd is a Black officer.
Byrd said he was also “very afraid” seven months ago when hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building hoping to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win. Crowds outside were calling for the hanging of the vice president and engaging cops in brutal hand-to-hand combat.
Dozens of members of Congress were being moved to safer ground when the mob made its way indoors. Byrd said there were chaotic reports that shots had been fired in the Capitol and that an officer was down.
“I said, ‘OK, this is getting serious,” he recalled.
Babbitt was unarmed and Byrd’s wound up being the only gunshot fired during the uprising.
When Byrd saw rioters breaking through a set of doors that would put them steps closer to the elected representatives for whom they seemed to be searching, he called for them to stand down, hoped they would, he said, then discharged his service weapon.
“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.”
He claims he waited as long as he could before shooting Babbitt. Byrd’s training prepared him to aim for “center mass,” which he did. The fact Babbitt was coming through the broken window in a door sideways may have been a factor in the bullet’s deadly path, the officer said.
Byrd calls it “disheartening” that Donald Trump claims Babbitt was “murdered” by an officer who was defending elected officials. He also said he’s been threatened by fanatics since his name was leaked online. Some of those threats have had racist connotations.
When Holt asked Byrd if he would still protect Trump and his family if that were his assignment he said he wouldn’t hesitate.
“I sure would,” Byrd said. “It’s my job.”
Byrd, who went into hiding when his name was first leaked, said that’s a job he still loves and plans on keeping.
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