Just before he shot and killed Ashli Babbitt amid the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, Lt. Michael Byrd was zeroing in on the glass doors leading into the lobby of the House of Representatives chamber.
Around 60 to 80 House members and staffers were holed up inside, and it was up to Byrd to protect them.
As rioters stormed the Capitol, Byrd along with a few other officers of the U.S. Capitol Police barricaded themselves with a wall of furniture outside the doors.
“Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were,” Byrd revealed in an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt, speaking publicly for the first time since the riot. “There was no way to retreat. No other way to get out.
“If they get through that door, they’re into the House chamber and upon the members of Congress,” added Byrd, who gave NBC News permission to use his name after authorities had declined to release it.
Byrd was able to understand the situation outside the capital due to police radio. There were screams of police officers who were under attack by rioters with chemical agents. One officer’s fingertips were blown off.
“It was literally broadcast over the air,” Byrd said. “I said, ‘OK, this is getting serious.’”
And then the demonstrators arrived. Byrd, who was a 28-year veteran of the Capitol Police, drew his gun as rioters smashed the glass doors.
Byrd repeatedly yelled for them to get back. But the mob continued on and then a single rioter attempted to climb through one of the doors.
And then, Byrd fired one shot — shooting Babbitt in the shoulder.
Babbitt, 35, who was an Air Force veteran and supporter of former President Donald Trump, fell to the ground. She eventually died from her injuries.
The far-right described Babbitt as a martyr. Trump went as far as to say she had been murdered and suggested, that the officer who shot her worked for a high-ranking Democrat. This was obviously, grossly false.
Byrd, who is Black, said the incident rocked his life. He has been in hiding for months after an overwhelming amount of death threats and racist attacks when his name was leaked onto right-wing websites.
In his interview with Holt, Byrd said he was confident in his decision.
“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.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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