U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Michael Leroy Byrd admitted in an interview Thursday night that he is the officer who fired the shot that killed Jan. 6 protester Ashli Babbitt.
Authorities have repeatedly declined to identify the officer who shot Babbitt, but Mr. Byrd told NBC News anchor Lester Holt that he decided to come forward to counter misrepresentations about his actions.
“I hope they understand I did my job,” Mr. Byrd said. “There was imminent threat and danger to the members of Congress. I just want the truth to be told.”
Capitol Police said Monday that the officer was cleared of any wrongdoing for shooting the Trump supporter outside the House chamber in the midst of the attack.
The agency did not respond to a request for confirmation of Mr. Byrd’s revelation, but a spokesperson said earlier in the day that the Capitol Police are “not facilitating any interviews with our officers this week” and that “safety is our No.1 priority.”
Mr. Byrd, 53, described the moments that led to his decision to fire his gun for the first time in his 28-year career as a Capitol Police officer.
He said he heard over the radio that rioters had broken into the building, so he and other officers built a makeshift barricade outside the glass doors leading to the lobby of the House of Representatives chamber.
“Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were,” he said. “If they get through that door, they’re into the House chamber and upon the members of Congress.”
Behind the barricade were 60 to 80 congressional members and staffers.
Mr. Byrd said a mob began to smash the glass doors and he repeatedly yelled, to no avail, for the protesters to back away.
The furniture obscured his view, he said, and he could not tell how many people were in the crowd or whether they were carrying weapons.
He saw a rioter, later identified as Babbitt, trying to crawl through one of the doors into the House chamber.
“I could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack or what the intentions are,” Mr. Byrd said. “But they had shown violence leading up to that point.”
Mr. Byrd said he fired a single shot at Babbitt, who was hit in the shoulder and later died from her wound.
“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.”
The lieutenant said his name was circulated around right-wing media outlets after the riot and that he received death threats.
“It’s all disheartening because I know I was doing my job,” he said. “I know that day I saved countless lives. … 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.”
Mr. Byrd acknowledged an incident in 2019 in which he left a loaded firearm in a restroom inside the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. The firearm did not have a safety mechanism to prevent it from being fired.
“I owned up to it. I was penalized for it. I moved on,” he said.
Babbitt was among hundreds of people who broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to block Congress’ certification of the presidential election results.
The Department of Justice determined in June that the officer who shot Babbitt did not act unreasonably. The agency has charged more than 500 people in connection with the attack.
Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran and Trump supporter, was the only person shot by police during the riot. Four others died of medical conditions such as strokes and heart attacks.
Babbitt’s husband, Aaron Babbitt, said Mr. Byrd admitted not knowing what was in his wife’s hands and couldn’t hear what the protesters were saying through the glass doors.
“This was a soft, guided, hand-held, well-rehearsed interview,” Mr. Babbitt told Newsmax. “He had no idea what was on the other side of the door, but he still shot. If I worked with this guy, I’d be terrified to be around him.”
Babbitt family attorney Terrell Roberts called for months for the Capitol Police to disclose the shooter’s identification and to hold the person accountable.
“Quite a turnaround, given the months of constantly saying that to identify him would expose him to danger. Where did that one go?” Mr. Roberts told DailyMail.com.
Mr. Roberts did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Times.
Babbitt’s family filed a lawsuit in June against the District of Columbia to obtain the officer’s identity, video footage of the shooting and documents from the Metropolitan Police Department’s investigation of the incident.
It was not immediately clear what effect Mr. Byrd’s announcement may have on the lawsuit.