Despite the chaos unfolding at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, just a single shot was fired — the shot that killed unarmed Air Force veteran and Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, 35.
Unbelievably, not a word was uttered about either the shooter or his victim during the opening hearing of the House select committee’s sham investigation into the Capitol incursion.
As the Babbitt family attorney, Terry Roberts, prepares to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the U.S. Capitol Police and the officer involved, believed to be Lt. Michael Byrd, a conflict is heating up over whether or not Babbitt was warned before the officer pulled the trigger.
It should be noted that Byrd has reportedly been placed on a paid administrative leave from his position with the Capitol Police.
RealClear Investigations’ Paul Sperry has followed this story closely and addressed this situation in a new report.
Byrd’s attorney, Mark Schamel, insists his client issued a warning and that he “did so loudly and clearly,” according to Sperry.
“He was screaming, ‘Stay back! Stay back! Don’t come in here!” Schamel said.
Although I have no background in the law, shouting, “Stay back! Stay back! Don’t come in here!” to a mob doesn’t constitute a warning that an officer is about to shoot. It’s a command. A true warning would mention that shots were about to be fired into the crowd.
“He was acting within his training. Lethal force is appropriate if the situation puts you or others in fear of imminent bodily harm,” Schamel argued.
He said his client had been guarding a critical chokepoint and prevented a “potential massacre of lawmakers and staff.”
Schamel went so far as to say, “There should be a training video on how he handled that situation. What he did was unbelievable heroism.”
“Schamel said witness statements back him up,” Sperry wrote. “He explained the lieutenant’s commands were not picked up on video recordings because the footage was shot on the other side of the doors where dozens of rioters were shouting and banging and drowning out his words. And he said his client could not be seen yelling out the instructions because his mouth was covered by a mask he wore as part of COVID-19 protections.”
Sperry interviewed Roberts who said, “It’s not debatable. There was no warning.”
“I would call what he did an ambush. I don’t think he’s a good officer. I think he’s reckless,” Roberts said.
Shooting randomly into a crowd is reckless.
Roberts told Sperry he has several witnesses who were with Babbitt and did not hear the officer issue “any kind of warning.”
Roberts made the very compelling point that if Byrd had indeed issued a warning, why did no one react to it? His investigators, he told Sperry, had examined video which showed that none of the officers who were in the hallway with the shooter reacted before he pulled the trigger. He said none of them took cover or crouched or pulled their own guns as would have been expected had they heard a warning. Instead, he said that, just prior to the shooting, they’d been casually milling about in the lobby.
“Those other officers were within earshot. If he’s yelling, they certainly aren’t showing any reaction to it,” he said. “If he was giving any kind of warning, why didn’t they react?”
A veteran Capitol Police officer, who reportedly spoke to Sperry on the condition of anonymity, said, “I’m not sure how he was justified shooting her when there was a SWAT team right behind her. They saw no immediate threat.” Sperry explained the SWAT team consisted of “three heavily armed USCP officers who had positioned themselves between the doors and the mob.”
This is an issue that Republicans have brought up repeatedly. They would like to see members of the SWAT team testify before the House select committee. Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar said, “They were right next to her and saw no threat, certainly no lethal threat. Why were there no warnings given or escalation of command and force in proper law enforcement technique?”
Former Capitol Police officer Patrick Skinner told Sperry that “we were trained in what to do if gunmen tried to storm the Capitol, but we were not trained in what to do if hundreds of people decided to rush the building.”
He explained that officers didn’t know what they were facing on Jan. 6. The situation was unprecedented.
Sperry also reportedly spoke to a former inspector general who reiterated what Skinner had said. “This is not meant pejoratively but just as a fact, but the [Capitol Police] is far from being some kind of elite law enforcement body. Its principal function is to assist tourists, maintain decorum in a tourist environment, and help out members of Congress and their staffs.”
So far, Democrats and the DOJ have managed to shield the shooter from the legal consequences of those actions. We know that Capitol Police were overwhelmed by an unprecedented situation (which could have been prevented had House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not rejected then-President Donald Trump’s request for 10,000 National Guard troops to be present, but I digress.)
Neither the DOJ nor the Democratic Party can protect the officer from the Babbitt family’s wrongful death lawsuit. Roberts can call the members of the SWAT team standing right behind Ashli Babbitt that day or anyone else he chooses.
And Schamel is kidding himself if he considers his client’s shout of, “Stay back! Stay back! Don’t come in here!” inside of the chaotic and noisy House chamber to be a proper warning of lethal force.
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