Lt. Michael Byrd, the Capitol Police officer who fatally shot rioter Ashli Babbitt during the Jan. 6 insurrection, revealed his identity on Thursday (Aug. 26) and gave his first interview since the deadly attack. Speaking with NBC, Byrd reflected on the violent chaos at the Capitol and defended his actions.
“I know that day I saved countless lives,” the 28-year department veteran told the outlet’s Lester Holt. “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.”
Byrd said he was defending the lobby of the House of Representatives chamber on Jan. 6, where 60 to 80 representatives and staff members were hiding. After hearing disturbing reports of violent rioters over his police radio, Byrd and others began barricading the lobby’s entrance.
“Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were,” he said. “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,” he added.
When rioters smashed through the lobby’s glass doors, one of them being Babbitt, Byrd said he repeatedly yelled at them to get back.
“I tried to wait as long as I could,” he said of pulling the trigger. “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.”
As Babbitt broke through the door, Byrd fired one shot and hit her in the shoulder. The 35-year-old Air Force veteran and Donald Trump supporter later died from her injuries.
Byrd said it wasn’t until later that night that he learned the rioter was a woman who was unarmed.
“I could not fully see her hands or what was in the backpack or what the intentions are,” he explained. “But they had shown violence leading up to that point.”
Babbitt’s death became a rallying cry for the far-right and Byrd said he received death threats and racist attacks after his name was leaked as the officer who shot her on right-wing websites.
“They talked about killing me, cutting off my head,” he told NBC. “It’s all disheartening because I know I was doing my job.”
Byrd became emotional when he revealed how the harassment has affected his family.
“Sometimes, you can’t do anything but cry,” he said. “You felt like you did your job. You helped protect our legislative leaders of this country and you fought for democracy and keeping them established.”
“I do my job for Republican, for Democrat, for white, for Black, red, blue, green,” he added. “I don’t care about your affiliation.”
Byrd was previously cleared of all wrongdoing by the Justice Department and the Capitol Police. In April, the Justice Department announced its decision not to charge him for the shooting, saying, “The investigation revealed no evidence to establish that, at the time the officer fired a single shot at Ms. Babbitt, the officer did not reasonably believe that it was necessary to do so in self-defense or in defense of the Members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber.”
In response, Babbitt’s family reportedly intends to file a civil lawsuit against Byrd and previously filed court papers to uncover his identity.
See a clip from his NBC interview below.