US Capitol police officer who shot Trump rioter comes forward

'I know that day I saved countless lives,' Lt Michael Byrd said about shooting Ashli Babbitt

The US Capitol police officer who fatally shot a Trump supporter during the January 6 attack came forward in an NBC interview. AP
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A US Capitol Police officer who fatally shot a rioter belonging to a mob that tried to breach the congressional chamber told NBC on Thursday that he had no option but to shoot.

“I tried to wait as long as I could,” Lt Michael Byrd 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 Capitol Police on Monday, said Lt Byrd's actions were consistent with department training and policy, which states that deadly force may be used "only when the officer reasonably believes that action is in the defence of human life, including the officer’s own life, or in the defence of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury".

"The actions of the officer in this case potentially saved members and staff from serious injury and possible death from a large crowd of rioters who forced their way into the US Capitol and to the House Chamber where Members and staff were steps away."

He was cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting of Ashli Babbitt, who was 35.

His name had been withheld by authorities over safety concerns, but he made the choice to come forward.

Lt Byrd said he and other officers had been trapped, barricaded inside with the members of Congress he was sworn to protect. He heard the mob coming and his anxiety worsened. He said he yelled repeatedly for the rioters to move back.

On the other side of the door, video showed the moment he fired the single shot, after rioters screamed at police to move out of the way and broke through the glass door leading to the doors of the House chamber.

Lt Byrd fired one shot, striking Babbitt as she was trying to climb through the jagged opening in the window.

“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.”

Babbitt was a US Air Force veteran who embraced far-right conspiracy theories on social media, including former president Donald Trump's false assertions that his 2020 presidential election loss was due to fraud. She was one of four participants to die in the riot.

Supporters of Mr Trump, have sought to elevate Babbitt as a martyr, even as the US Justice Department is seeking to prosecute close to 600 of those who took part in the violent attack.

Mr Trump falsely stated that Lt Byrd was a head of security for a "high-ranking" Democrat.

When asked by Holt if it was Mr Trump he was protecting, would he have done the same thing, Lt Byrd said, "Of course, it's my job."

A House committee has started in earnest to investigate what happened that day, sending out requests on Wednesday for documents from intelligence, law enforcement and other government agencies.

Updated: August 27, 2021, 1:03 AM