News & Politics

Capitol Police Clear Officer Who Shot Ashli Babbitt

The officer "potentially saved Members and staff from serious injury and possible death," the force found.

Photograph by Evy Mages

The US Capitol Police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt during the deadly Capitol riot on January 6 acted lawfully, the Capitol Police announced Monday. The force investigated the officer and found that their actions comported with its policy of using deadly force. The announcement confirms a report from NBC News last week.

Babbitt was part of a group that entered the Capitol on January 6 and attempted to crawl through an opening in a door whose glass had been smashed. That would have led her into a hallway outside the “Speaker’s Lobby,” which leads to the House chamber. The officer who shot Babbitt was in plainclothes during the incident; the Capitol Police says their actions “potentially saved Members and staff from serious injury and possible death from a large crowd of rioters who forced their way into the U.S. Capitol and to the House Chamber where Members and staff were steps away.”

The force did not identify the officer, saying they and their family “have been the subject of numerous credible and specific threats.” It’s uncommon for police departments to permanently withhold the name an officer involved in a shooting, but the Capitol Police are not subject to the type of oversight that’s typical among other forces. The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the US Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division came to a similar conclusion to the Capitol Police in April, saying they found “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.”

These explanations are unlikely to sway opinion on the far right, where Babbitt, who became an avid fan of former President Trump and posted about the QAnon conspiracy theory after she left the Air Force, is widely viewed as a martyr. Trump phoned Babbitt’s mother, Micki Witthoeft, last month to offer his condolences; he’s referred to her shooting as a “murder.” Conservative activists plan a demonstration next month in front of the Capitol to protest what they view as the unfair treatment of people arrested because of the riot. “The US Capitol Police’s statement isn’t credible,” says Matt Braynard, who is organizing that rally on behalf of his group Look Ahead America. “To assert that an unarmed 90-lb woman was a threat to anyone involved is absurd.”

 

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.