Posted on August 9, 2021

Lawyer: Capitol Cop Who Shot Ashli Babbitt ‘Ambushed’ Her on Jan. 6 Without Warning

Paul Sperry, RealClearInvestigations, August 5, 2021

Kicking off the first hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the U.S. Capitol riot, Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat,  promised to fully investigate “the facts of what happened on Jan. 6,”  calling it “a scene of violence in the citadel of democracy.”

But over the next 3½ hours, he and other Democrats, along with their handpicked Republican panelists and police witnesses, never mentioned the most lethal act committed that day — the fatal Capitol Police shooting of unarmed protester Ashli Babbitt. It was the only shot fired during the entire riot.

This omission angered Babbitt’s family and a number of Republicans who maintain that the Select Committee and the Capitol Police are covering up the circumstances surrounding her death. Questions linger over the shooting, especially whether the officer who fired the fatal shot warned Babbitt to stop before he opened fire as she attempted to breach a barricaded door inside the Capitol Building.

The officer’s lawyer insists his client not only issued such a command, but did so loudly and clearly. However, in an interview with RealClearInvestigations, Babbitt family attorney Terry Roberts said he has gathered evidence indicating the officer, a plainclothes police lieutenant, remained silent. Far from warning Babbitt he would shoot, Roberts said the officer “ambushed” her from the side where she could not see he had taken up position in a hall doorway and had trained his weapon on her.

“It’s not debatable,” said Roberts. “There was no warning.”

A Maryland personal-injury lawyer who specializes in police misconduct cases, Roberts has won several million dollars for victims of police brutality. He said he is preparing to file a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Capitol Police and the officer, seeking more than $10 million in damages.

Babbitt, 35, was fatally wounded as she attempted to climb through the broken window above a door leading to the House chamber, where lawmakers were being evacuated. {snip}

More than six months after the shooting, the U.S. Capitol Police still refuse to release the name of the officer. But several sources have identified him as Lt. Michael L. Byrd, a 53-year-old veteran of the force who was serving as commander of the House Chamber Section of the Capitol Police on Jan. 6. He has not returned to duty and remains on paid administrative leave. Attempts to reach Byrd were unsuccessful.

Though Byrd appears to have been cleared of criminal wrongdoing, he may still be subject to civil action. If Babbitt was not given an opportunity to obey commands before she was shot, it could figure prominently in the family’s planned wrongful-death suit against the officer. Roberts said he has interviewed several witnesses who were standing outside the Speaker’s Lobby with Babbitt, and that they’ll testify they did not hear the officer issue “any kind of warning.”

He also said video recordings his investigators have analyzed reveal that other police who were in the hallway with the officer did not react as expected before he fired. He said they seemed to be caught unaware as he opened fire. Roberts said he has lined up expert witnesses, including ex-cops and use-of-force experts, who will testify that the officers behind him in the Speaker’s Lobby would have taken cover or crouched and pulled their own weapons if they heard the lieutenant give repeated warnings he was going to shoot. Instead, Roberts said, they appeared to be casually standing or walking around in the lobby in the seconds leading up to the shooting.


It’s not clear if this critical issue was resolved by the investigation of the shooting by the Justice Department, which concluded in April that “there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution” of the officer for “willfully” violating Babbitt’s civil rights, though it did not rule out the possibility he acted out of “panic” or “even poor judgment.” Justice investigators reportedly did not pursue murder or manslaughter charges.

“They cleared him real fast,” U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee Chairman Gus Papathanasiou said. “I was surprised.”

“I’m not sure how he was justified shooting her when there was a SWAT team right behind her,” added a veteran Capitol officer, referring to three heavily armed USCP officers who had positioned themselves between the doors and the mob. “They saw no immediate threat.” {snip}


Roberts said as part of the discovery process, he plans to seek the shooting officer’s training records and his discipline file containing any infractions or complaints of misconduct. He noted that in February 2019, Byrd was investigated for leaving his department-issued Glock-22 firearm unattended in a restroom on the House side of the Capitol, even though the potent weapon, which fires .40-caliber rounds, has no manual safety to prevent unintended firing. The abandoned gun was discovered by another officer during a routine security sweep.


Also, Roberts said the officer appeared to lack trigger discipline, judging from photos taken by a freelance photographer inside the House chamber before the shooting down the hall in the Speaker’s Lobby. “He’s gunslinging like some cowboy,” the lawyer said.

In one of the freelancer’s photos obtained by RCI,  the officer can be seen advancing toward the door of the chamber while several other law enforcement officers had taken position behind a barricade. His Glock-22 is slung low at his side pointed in the direction of the other officers, whose backs are to him, and his finger appears to be on the trigger.

The veteran Capitol Police officer who spoke to RCI on the condition of anonymity said his colleague was not following department firearms training, which requires officers to keep their weapons pointed in a safe direction while making sure of what’s in front of and beyond a target, and to keep the finger off the trigger until ready to fire.