The Capitol police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during the January 6 riot came forward in an interview with NBC News that aired Thursday night. Lt. Michael Byrd described barricading the glass doors leading to the House of Representatives chamber's lobby, where 60 to 80 lawmakers and staffers were hiding. As rioters broke the doors and Byrd yelled at them to get back, Babbitt started climbing through one of the doors and Byrd shot after she failed to comply with orders to stop. He says he waited until the absolute last moment to fire. "I know that day I saved countless lives," he says. "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."
His name leaked to some right-wing websites, where Babbitt had started to be viewed as a martyr, and he went into hiding after receiving death threats as well as racist attacks (he is Black). January 6 was the first time in his 28 years on the force that Byrd had fired his weapon, but he addressed an incident that also made waves online: In 2019, he accidentally left it in a bathroom, where it was discovered by another officer. Describing it as a "terrible mistake," Byrd says he "owned up to it," "was penalized for it," and "moved on." (Click for the full interview with Byrd, who has been cleared of wrongdoing by both the Capitol Police and the Justice Department.)